The day after Christmas I took a trip down to Washington D.C. with Mrs. Z7 to have a look at the International Spy Museum. It was only a three-hour tour down from the secret lair to visit it. I’ve wanted to see this mysterious attraction for a long time . Last week the opportunity came and I took it. Although the entrance fee was steep, $22.00 to get you past the red shirts, it was worth the trip and money. We even passed the National Security Agency Headquarters on the way down.
Finding the museum is surprisingly easy, no need to find a drop box with the hidden location inside. It’s directly across the street from the Smithsonian Art Museum. Parking was very convenient, but I booked my spot days in advance. I was there on a Saturday too, so I have no idea what the traffic is like while the government is at work. Even for such an off-day, the museum had plenty of operatives inside trying to see everything. There is a special interactive tour which you can take, but we opted for the standard walk-it-and-look-at-it tour.
One of the features of the current exhibition was the attraction devoted to all the James Bond villains. I saw two Bond cars on display, one being the Aston Martin used in Goldfinger. There were also many costumes and props from the Bond movies. Naturally, they had a James Bond toy collection, although the James Bond Briefcase toy was not in it. I had the Man From Uncle Briefcase toy when I was a kid, but I really, really wanted that James Bond Briefcase. Part of the exhibit was made to resemble a Bond villain’s secret lair. It may be the closest any of us will ever get to Blofeld’s headquarters. It even had the famous gold-plated typewriter Ian Fleming used.
The Spy Museum exists on several levels, at least the ones I found. When you enter the museum proper (after a secret elevator ride) the first exhibit is a display of the symbols of various intelligence agencies all over the world. After a brief wait for Control to approve you, double doors swing open and the operatives move into a small theater where you witness a brief video projection about the activities of spy organizations. The walking exhibit is the next thing you experience.
The display of famous sixties spy gadgets was my favourite part of the museum. You are able to see the infamous Bulgarian assassin umbrella and all kinds secret weapons, including a gun built into a watch. On the wall are many listening devices and ways to hide them. There’s even a display which shows how the “bug” has shrunk over the years. It’s an interactive exhibit with many games you can play and even a phone you can pick up to hear yourself bugged. For the physically inclined, there is an air duct you can crawl through and experience your Johnny Quest fantasy.
Among the many gadgets on display was an original Enigma machine from World War Two. It was behind a glass case, so I wasn’t able to punch any keys.There were displays of spy toys from the sixties and books written by famous spy authors. The world of secret intelligence was never so much fun! A small replica of a Main Street USA movie theater plays videos about famous spy cases and films.
The tour ends at the spy museum gift shop, which is the largest collection of books, devices and clothing I have ever seen devoted to the art of eavesdropping. Whip out your credit card and you can buy a security camera, coffee mug, or any number of books about spies. My favourite was the garden gnome in a trench coat. Another choice item was the “Top Ten Reasons I Didn’t Get into the CIA” T-shirt.
So if you have the time, do check out the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Its write across the street from a major Smithsonian Museum and the parking is not difficult.Its an experience not to missed if you are in the D.C. Area. I’m certain Mr. Solo would approve.