The very popular International Spy Museum has swapped its local antiquated and narrow for a building of glass and steel brand new two times larger. If he continues the scene-setting in fiction, with the famous spies, James Bond and Austin Powers, and reality, with artifacts of the cold War or the fight against terrorism after the September 11 attacks, the museum is also interactive.

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The visitor can test his skills in lock-picking, or his memory and powers of observation during the simulation of an espionage operation. In another role-playing game, it becomes an analyst for the CIA in a cell in a crisis where, with information very succinct, it needs to advise president Barack Obama on whether to lead or not to a raid on a complex where land may be Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in Pakistan. The gadgets and the stories, which go back to centuries, surprise and fascinate while exposing the challenges of the world of the shadow. The opportunity for the visitor to answer a question: could I be a spy?

A spy in the city? The iconic Aston Martin DB5 of James Bond at the Spy Museum. SAUL LOEB/AFP

Now installed not far from the National Mall, where many museums to the most free, the Spy Museum has always been one of the attractions of private the most popular of the capital since its opening in 2002. The iconic Aston Martin DB5 from the James Bond movie, Goldfinger (1964), stands now in a beautiful place and the space is now large enough to make a leap in time with an equally stylish surveillance drone Amber of the 1980s. And even a british submarine car of the Second world War.

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A portion of the tunnel of the intelligence services the american CIA and british MI6 to listen to soviet communications with East Berlin in the 1950s has found a place. Not to mention a plethora of gadgets of any kind as a disguise of a pregnant woman in the CIA or a needle with poison concealed in a silver coin belonging to Francis Gary Powers, pilot of the U2 spy plane shot down by the soviet Union in 1960. Or even a piece of coal explosive for sabotage, pills sedative for dog with CIA agents in Cuba, the book of a KGB agent under cover in New York city in the 1950s.

The International Spy Museum is not an international name. So it is back on the theft of secrets and technology to u.s. by China but also on the flight, centuries ago, the technique of rearing silk worms and the cultivation of tea by the Western to the Chinese.


The failures of intelligence have their own section just as the excesses such as torture by simulated drowning or “waterboarding”, a copy of which is presented, which has been used by the CIA after the September 11. The museum also reveals the techniques and equipment of encryption, such as the dreaded Enigma German “broken” by the mathematician Alan Turing, or the method of the microdot. “The goal of the spies has not changed over the centuries,” notes Keith Melton, including the 7,000 artifacts collected since the early 1960s constitute the treasure of the museum. “The only thing that has changed is the technology and the way in which they achieve their objectives”.

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7.000 exhibits belong to Keith Melton, an engineer passionate by the world of espionage. SAUL LOEB/AFP

This engineer and former U.S. Navy had made it known that he was a purchaser of any artifact of espionage, and has sympathized with workers and managers from all the camps. “When the Berlin wall fell, I was there,” he says, where his extensive collection of objects of the Stasi east German. A few weeks after the fall of the soviet Union, he knocked on the door of the headquarters of the KGB in Moscow, saying: “I’m here to buy spying equipment”. “I like the gadgets, they (the spies, editor’s NOTE) love gadgets”, he says. Its greatest treasure? The ice axe used to assassinate Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940, he was used for forty years.

But Keith Melton does not hide his nostalgia in the face of new technologies. “I think that the golden age of spy devices is completed. This is now the device to spying the most powerful in the world,” he said, pointing at his smartphone.