International Spy Museum

I spent last week in Washington, D.C. with my family. Over the next few days, I'll be talking about the various museums we visited. First up is the International Spy Museum.

I was a bit torn on this one. We didn't do any of the extra "spy operations" so my opinions are solely based on the regular trip though the museum. After a short elevator ride, you are told that you must memorize a new cover identity. You pick one of the identities written on the pillars in the middle of the room and try your best to remember all of the information. (Your new name, age, country of origin, etc.) Then you sit through a briefing video. Then the museum begins. Depending on how many other people are in your 'group' (it may not necessarily just be the people you came with), this part is either really fun or really annoying. There are a bunch of little games teaching you how to be a spy. From trying to figure out if someone is spying on you to learning how to read aerial maps, there is a lot to learn here. However, each area has two terminals. If there are a ton of people around, chances are you won't really get to use them. My husband and I walked all around the area and played a few of the games before we could get anywhere near the terminals for the secret identity game. (You get more clues that you are supposed to memorize to use later.) I think the museum either needs more terminals or to figure out a way to lower the number of people in each group.

From this point, the museum is pretty much like any other museum. There are a lot of exhibits featuring decades old spy memorabilia from the around the world. While some of it is interesting, a lot of it is a bit dull unless you are really into the whole spy thing. Also, the museum itself is badly laid out. Exhibits line the walkways, which make it difficult to walk though an area without bumping into the people reading the placards. My husband and I were stuck in one area because there was a man reading a placard on the left side of the walkway while a woman was translating a placard for a young boy on the right side. There was no room for us to squeeze in between them to get to the next section.

At the end, you were supposed to be able to use the clues you got from the secret identity terminals in the beginning to finish your mission. Either I (and my sister and her boyfriend) missed a terminal in the middle somewhere or the museum changed the information on one terminal without updating the second because the information that we had wasn't even available as an option on the second terminal. As a result, we failed our "missions." I was very disappointed since this game was one of the big things I was looking forward to.

In all, if you are a big spy nerd, you'll probably love this place. If you don't like crowds or are only vaguely interested in spy stuff, skip this altogether. There is much more interesting stuff in town.