This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program
EXPLORATIONS. Today we tell about a museum that has just opened
in Washington D-C. This unusual museum is becoming very popular,
very quickly. It is the International Spy Museum.
The International Spy Museum opened on Friday, July nineteenth.
The next day a crowd of people waited in the summer heat for
as long as two hours to enter.
After they got in the museum, they learned about famous spies.
They saw unusual communications equipment, special weapons and
other items. They also saw many objects that used to be secret,
including different cameras used by spies. Some of the cameras
can see through walls.
The museum has a huge collection of pictures of spies. It provides
information about what it is like to be a spy. And, it has shows
what happens to some spies when they are caught.
Some of its information about spies is history. Other information
is new, some only a few months old. Among the stories the museum
tells is about two American men who were found guilty in recent
years of spying. Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen are spending
the rest of their lives in prison.
Information is extremely useful to a government and its leaders.
Almost all governments employ people who collect information.
National leaders use this information to make the best possible
decisions when their country is involved in a crisis or other
difficult situation. The correct information can help a leader
prevent war. It can save lives, improve the economy and protect
the citizens of a nation.
Valuable information does not have to be secret. It can be
found in newspapers, magazines and books. However, some people
collect information that a government considers secret. These
people are spies.
Germany, 1949: a camera in a wristwatch.
History experts say that spies have always existed. The International
Spy Museum says the first known document about spies is almost
four-thousand years old. It is a small piece of pottery made
of clay that was found in Syria.
The information written in the clay tells about the capture
of several spies. It does not say what happened to them.
The museum has a copy of a military book written two-thousand-five
hundred years ago. Chinese military expert General Sun Tzu wrote
the book, ¡°The Art of War.¡± It is still
read today in military schools. In the book, Sun Tzu explains
spies should be used and can find good information almost anywhere.
The International Spy Museum says the first known successful
group of spies may have worked in Britain. The Museum says Sir
Francis Walsingham was the Secretary of State for Britain¡¯s
Queen Elizabeth the First. He became her Secretary of State
Mister Walsingham controlled a large group of spies who gathered
information about people in Britain. Experts say there may have
been one-thousand-five-hundred spies in this group.
Mister Walsingham also collected information about foreign
governments. However, he was more interested in anyone who might
be a threat to Queen Elizabeth and her rule. History experts
judge these efforts to have been successful because he was able
to protect the queen from several enemies who tried to overthrow
American military commanders used spies against the British
during the American Revolution. George Washington¡¯s
letter about the use of spies is in the International Spy Museum.
There also is material from spies on both sides of the American
Civil War and from spies from countries that took part in World
The museum has a large collection of material about World War
Two. Spies did very useful work for both sides during the war.
They gathered information about enemy plans and caused problems
for the enemy deep in occupied lands.
The Museum also explains how almost every government has used
spies to gather secret information during peacetime. It tells
how the secrets for making the atomic bomb were stolen.
The work of spying is not just history. It continues today.
The International Spy Museum says more spies are working now
in Washington D-C, than in any other city in the world.
If you were going to build a museum that cost more than forty-million
dollars to tell the story of spies, how would you do it? The
company that owns the International Spy Museum asked the advice
of a long list of experts.
Several are retired members of the United States Central Intelligence
Agency. Two members of this group are Admiral Stansfield Turner
and William Webster. Both are former heads of the C-I-A. The
museum¡¯s experts also include General Oleg Kalugin.
He once was the head of the former Soviet Union¡¯s
intelligence service, the K-G-B. General Kalugin says he worked
with the museum so all sides of the spy story could be represented.
The International Spy Museum attempts to represent the work
that spies do. It is not trying to present a political idea,
or the story of one country or government. The museum makes
it clear that a person considered a dangerous spy in one country
can be considered a hero in another country.
The International Spy Museum is in a group of older buildings
near the center of Washington D-C. Inside, the museum is extremely
modern. It uses the newest electronic technology to tell the
story of spying.
Visitors are surrounded by steel and glass walls. On one wall
is the warning, ¡°All is not as it seems.¡±
Many of the walls hold television equipment that shows information
as the visitors walk through an area.
On many of these television sets, different pictures appear
telling the same story. The museum also includes several small
theaters that show films about spies and spying. A visitor soon
realizes there is a lot to see and a lot to learn.
Visitors to the new museum say the information provided is
very interesting. They especially like the objects used by spies.
Many of these items are unusual. They look like common items,
but they are not. Some are extremely small. For example, a button
on a man¡¯s coat is really the lens on a camera.
Another camera looks like a wristwatch.
A small, brown suitcase is really a radio used by allied spies
working in German occupied France during World War Two. The
suitcase radio was used to send and receive messages from the
spy¡¯s headquarters in Britain.
The museum also has many different weapons that are difficult
to recognize. One looks like the round lipstick tube a woman
uses to place red color on her lips. It is really a small gun
that can fire one bullet. Another gun looks like a large ring.
It can fire five very small bullets.
The International Spy Museum is too small to have an airplane
inside it. Yet airplanes are very important to the story of
The museum has pictures of spy planes and the photographs they
have taken. One interesting camera was used by a bird. This
happened before the invention of airplanes. A special small
camera was attached to the bird¡¯s chest. The bird
flew into the air and the camera began taking photographs. The
result was not always useful, but provided some information.
Many years later, the United States used the fastest aircraft
ever built to gather photographic intelligence. It was called
the S-R-Seventy-One Blackbird. It could travel at three times
the speed of sound. The Blackbird¡¯s powerful cameras
could take photographs of objects as small as a child¡¯s
ball from as high as twenty-six-thousand meters.
The International Spy Museum is owned by a company that plans
to build museums for profit. An adult has to pay eleven dollars
to enter the International Spy Museum. A child must pay eight
dollars. The museum also includes a large gift shop and two
places to eat.
Some critics say eleven dollars is too much to charge. Yet,
the people who must wait in long lines to enter the museum do
not seem to mind paying that amount.
Oh¡¦ we almost forgot to tell you. If you visit
the spy museum, be careful what you say while you are there.
As you pass through the museum¡¯s twenty-four rooms,
hidden devices are recording what you say.
As you finish your visit, you can listen to these recordings
of visitors¡¯ comments. In the International Spy
Museum, nothing is as it seems.
This Special English program was written by Paul Thompson.
It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. Our studio engineer was Holly
Capehart. This is Steve Ember.
And this is Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for another
EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.
This V-O-A Explorations Report is published
courtesy of VOAnews.com