International Spy Museum
Comic adaptation of the James Bond
novel Doctor No by Ian Fleming
Having never been a spy, the only lens through which I know this profession is books and movies. And while I enjoy both, I’m not naïve enough to think that the glamour portrayed in them reflects any sort of reality. The International Spy Museum embraces the popular culture version of spying, yet hidden within its slick, interactive exhibits are gems of real information about the history of espionage accompanied by a variety of historic artifacts. The museum is a nonprofit that, according to its website, is dedicated to “educate the public about espionage and intelligence in an engaging way and to provide a context that fosters understanding of their important role in and impact on current and historic events.… It is committed to the apolitical presentation of the history of espionage in order to provide visitors with impartial, accurate information.”
You start on the third floor. Here exhibits include the School for Spies, The Secret History of History, Civil War Spies, and Spies Among Us. The second floor is apparently off limits to those without proper clearance. Indeed, the museum doesn’t even publicly acknowledge its existence in its official brochure: it doesn’t appear on the floor plans. The entire first floor is dedicated to James Bond. Whoever designed the museum’s interior should have earned the equivalent of an Oscar or Grammy, which, it turns out, really exists: it’s called the Excellence in Exhibition Competition, which the museum probably doesn’t qualify because it opened in 2002 and this award didn’t start until 2012. The museum is easy to navigate as a one can be (which is to say I went the wrong direction less times than normal).