Spy: The Exhibit

By on December 27, 2012

If you’ve ever wondered how much of what we see in spy-based movies is true, this exhibit is a great place to start. Both historical and interactive, Spy: The Exhibit, at the Discovery Times Square Museum, will dispell myths and give the viewer insight to a world many of us never see.

The beginning of the exhibit introduces the historical background and creation of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), during World War II. In a time of mistrust and an ever expanding battle ground, President Fraklin D. Roosevelt started the OSS to learn more about the enemy by infiltrating their everyday lives, therefore giving the United States an opportunity to be one step ahead. If the OSS doesn’t sound familiar, perhaps its more modern name will: The CIA.

The exhibit begins with homing pigeons. Based on the simple concept that homing pigeons always fly home, these small birds were outfitted with tiny cameras to take pictures of enemy activity. During the course of World War II, the cameras were designed and then redesigned to fit the birds even better than the original versions in an effort to not hinder flight patterns and aerodynamics. In a time when many of us may be amazed at the imagery provided by small, hand-held cameras, these cameras, which looked to be no more than 2″ in size, actually took photos of enemy activity from a literal bird’s eye view. Imagine, this all took place during a time when many Americans did not have televisions.

From there, the continuing exhibit of spy material grows and evolves with the continuation of time. Displays showcasing listening bugs in shoes, special glasses to read documents copied onto microfilm, purses specially designed for female spies, and parts of every day furniture all used to enhance spy activity line the walls and give a history lesson at the same time.

What one can take away from the exhibit is that spies blend in with us. They are trained to be part of our everyday society, they look like we do, they speak like we do and can fake accents to blend in with neighbors anywhere. (Remember the story we brought you about those Russian spies in Montclair?)

Blending in is crucial for the spy; an integral part of the job. The exhibit offers both the opportunity to see disguises that were used in various spy operations, and two interactive kiosks where kids and adults can create their own disguises. Changes in hair color, eye color, basic facial features and voice all make the experience both unique and entertaining. And if exhibit-goers want to take the interactive experience a step beyond voice and facial disguises, there is a lazer tag room where one can hide from and try to beat potential enemies.

The interactive kiosks and lazer area are great for kids of any age, but most of the exhibit is geared toward older children. My youngest, who will start kindergarten in the fall, didn’t get much out of hte exhibit. But my older kids, in grades 3 and 5, were able to read through the history and marvel at the every day objects turned into spy tools. To get the most out of it, I would suggest taking this trip with kids in middle school and older.

The Discovery Times Square Museum is located at 226 West 44th Street in New York City. Tickets are $27 for adults and $19.50 for kids ages 4-12.


All photos courtesy of Discovery Times Square

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