The only public museum in the world devoted solely to espionage, the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. opened in July of 2002. Its mission is to provide the public with an objective education about the important political, social, and historical function of espionage. Most spies – even those who have significantly impacted international events in the 20th century – remain unknown, even after their deaths. Their stories and strategies have often played priceless roles in both peace and wartime, and a visit to this museum allows one to delve deeper into this mysterious world of intelligence, deceit, and wit.
The Spy Museum prides itself on presenting its information in as non-biased a fashion as possible, putting not the U.S. but the entire world at the center of its exhibitions. What’s more, many of the items on display have never been revealed to the public before.
Exhibits abound this summer; at “School for Spies” one can explore spy techniques such as the use of microdots, disguises, and invisible ink, as well as fifty years of spy tech – much of which is still in use today. “Covers and Legends” teaches museum patrons about the importance of secret identities and documents. “The Secret History of History” explains how espionage has been alive and effective for centuries, whether via ninjas, pigeons, or the all-female Sisterhood of Spies. Other exhibits include “Spies Among Us,” “War of the Spies,” “The 21st Century,” and “Weapons of Mass Disruption” – an exhibit on cyber warfare, which has arguably become the new WMD.
2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the US Civil War, and thus the Spy Museum has launched “From Ballroom to Battlefield: A Spy’s Eye View of the Civil War,” which reveals the involvement of General Lee, marching bands, and female spies in Civil War espionage.
General Admission is $18 ($17 seniors/$15 children). Summer Museum hours are 9am to 7pm. After September, opening hours are 10am to 6pm (Thanksgiving weekend, until 8pm). No photography, cell phones, or strollers. The Museum is at 800 F Street NW, between 9th and 8th Streets in the Pennsylvania Quarter neighborhood. Parking is available two blocks away for around $15. During busy holiday weekends, patrons may need to wait an hour or so to enter the main exhibits, so come prepared. Online tickets can be printed at home.
Also available is the Washington D.C. Spy Tour, where you will have the opportunity to participate in an interactive mission and explore the rich espionage history in Washington D.C.
Planning a Trip? Browse Viator’s Washington D.C. tours and things to do, Washington D.C. attractions, and Washington D.C. travel recommendations. Or book a private tour guide in Washington D.C. for a customized tour!