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February 10th, 2014 by Stinkhead

We’re on a huge secret agent kick right now because we watched Spy Kids a few weeks ago. I’ve been planning this huge spy game for my son, that took us to the International Spy Museum in Washington DC. There is a video coming detailing all the clues and puzzles my son had to decipher, but for now, check out the the gallery of images from the museum, including all the James Bond movie props and costumes from the Fifty Years of Villiany exhibit.

This was by far my favorite fictional spy gadget. This the protective plutonium case from The World Is Not Enough. If you’ve seen that movie, you remember it’s importance, but if you haven’t, it’s still pretty awesome. I totally want to try and build something similar with parts from Home Depot, but I’m guessing I’d have trouble taking it on a plane.

My favorite historical artifact is this seal dubbed “The Thing.” In the 40s it was gifted to the American ambassador in Moscow by some local school children. He proudly hung it in his office. Don’t worry, the security checked it for bugs, by sweeping for electronic signatures. They found none. Then in the late 50s, it was discovered it did have a bug inside, but it was ingenious in its design. It didn’t use electricity. It was a specially tuned antennae. When KGB officers in a nearby van pointed a special transmitter at it, it would then relay sounds from the embassy’s office back to the van. So it only “worked” when they were pointing the particular frequency at the device, avoiding detection for more than a decade. Brilliant!

And of course, as a photographer, I loved all the spy cameras. Spy cameras everywhere! (That’s the point, they’re everywhere) I love the somewhat sinister history of all of these artifacts. Some are CIA, others are KGB or German. As a patron of the typical Smithsonian experience, I’m used to the overly-noble and patriotic purpose behind every hand-written letter, moon rock, and bayonet on display. However here at the Spy Museum, you’re given an unflinching look at the tools that were used to spy on us. I do kind of like the “ha-ha, gotcha now, it’s in our museum” end of the game, but still, there’s a certain shifty-eyes, stealing-a-peek experience when viewing all this stuff. And I love it.

I also love the environmental considerations. To my son, and myself, it was like a giant playground. Each time period is surrounded in an immersive experience. There was a volcanic lair, a ventilation shaft you could crawl through, a Civil War era parlor, a Soviet war room, the streets of a WWII European city, and tons of bunkers. Every room could be singled out as an impressive “man cave” theme. This isn’t dusty, cavernous hallways, full of glass cases. There’s plenty to touch and interact with too. I could barely pull my son off of the Enigma machine simulator.

I will be sharing a podcast shortly, detailing the massive spy game I lined up to get us to the museum. One of the things I used to add authenticity was a replica dead drop bolt. It’s hollowed out so you can leave messages inside, and it played a major part in our game. It was pretty thrilling to my son when we turned the corner and saw a similar looking bolt in the display case of a museum. What I’m getting at is that the Spy Shop is full of cool spy gadgets and material. Books, DVDs, t-shirts, stuff for kids, and real-life spy tech you can use.

Stay tuned, I’ll have an awesome spy video posted in a few days. In the meantime, check out my gallery below, containing both props from the Bond movies, as well as the historical artifacts. There’s also a promotion right now if you flash your SmarTrip card, you can get $7 off admission! Swing by for details.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157640756544124″]

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Posted in 10&up, 8&up, article, Boys, event, gadgets, Girls, good deals, kids, Movies, review, shop | Comments Off on Adventure at the International Spy Museum

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