Lonely Planet Writer

International Spy Museum reopens in DC following $162m makeover

The International Spy Museum is set to reopen in May in a new location at the L’Enfant Plaza in Washington DC. Following a $162 million makeover, the new museum is twice the size of its former building with new groundbreaking exhibitions and a trove of never-before-seen artifacts.

The new headquarters of the International Spy Museum. Image by International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum claims to have the world’s largest collection of items related to international espionage. Examples include a 1777 letter from George Washington authorising a New York spy network, a lipstick pistol and a camera from the 1980s that was concealed in a coat button and used in the Soviet Union and the US.

The museum has moved from F Street to L’Enfant Plaza and the new state-of-the-art building will provide a behind-the-scenes look at how intelligence shapes our lives with interactive exhibitions, installations, custom-built galleries and a trove of items that the museum says is the “foremost collection of spy artifacts in the world,” as well as first-person accounts from top intelligence officers and experts. The museum will also let visitors test their own spying skills with interactive challenges.

The museum traces the history of espionage. Image by International Spy Museum

A new exhibition at the museum uncovers the work of intelligence analysts in the capturing of Osama bin Laden, while the Weapons of Mass Disruption exhibition illustrates the role computers play in spying and terrorist attacks. Berlin City of Spies will explore Cold War-era Berlin, with original segments of the Berlin Wall, a piece of the Berlin Tunnel, a border checkpoint and a Stasi office with all original artifacts.

Spies Among Us offers exhibits, films, and videos which examine espionage through World War II, showcasing real-life spy stories and visitors will get the inside scoop on code-making and code-breaking operations. The exhibit also highlights the clandestine roles of celebrity spies at the time including singer Josephine Baker, chef Julia Child, movie director John Ford, and actress Marlene Dietrich.

“Spycraft has evolved dramatically since we established the International Spy Museum in 2002,” said Spy Museum Founder Milton Maltz. “It’s never been more important for people to understand and appreciate – especially in a democracy – the many roles espionage has played, and continues to play, in shaping our lives, our country, and the world we live in.”

The new museum is double the size of its previous building. Image by International Spy Museum

The new 140,000 square foot steel and glass facility is designed by architects Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners (the same architects behind the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Senedd in Cardiff, and the Millennium Dome in London) and is located between the National Mall and DC’S trendy new District Wharf. The rooftop provides 360-degree views of Washington DC, from the US Capitol to the Washington Monument.

The rooftop and indoor event spaces opened in last September and the rest of the museum will open 11 May, 2019. Standard adult tickets cost $21.95 (€19.50). For more information or to book tickets, see here.