Sunday, March 09, 2014

Spy Exhibit

Actual pick-ax used to kill
Leon Trotsky (not his real skull)

As a kid growing up during the Cold War, I was completely fascinated by spies: James Bond, of course, but also the men from U.N.C.L.E., Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott from TV’s I Spy, and even Matt Helm. As adults, Tim and I have continued the tradition by seeing all the Bourne films, BBC’s MI5, and now The Americans, the TV show about 1980s Russian spies living a double life outside of Washington D.C. Strange how some fascinations never seem to grow old . . . or go out of date.

Last weekend, Karen and I drove all the way out to Simi Valley to see the “Spy: The Secret World of Espionage” exhibit at the Reagan library. Despite a disappointing lack of pop culture spy references—only a small display of James Bond memorabilia and nothing from my favorite TV shows—the exhibit was lots of fun, showing real-life gizmos that looked more like movie props than dangerous cloak-and-dagger stuff. Here’s just a fraction of some of the neat things we saw:

Communication equipment, etc.—the small "rock"
on the right is actually a bomb

Matchbox camera

"Enigma" machine used to decode encrypted messages

Example of mini-motorcyles parachuted into Europe,
during WWII, for American soldiers to use

Because Russian tourist maps
were often purposely deceptive,
the CIA started creating their
own maps in the 1950s

Ashtray on the left is actually a camera; the machine on
the right is a portable key-making device to replicate
hotel keys, etc.

Tape recorder the size of a cigarette case

More hidden cameras: lipstick, wristwatch, pack of cigarettes,
lighter, and Glu-Stik!

Real-life artifacts from the  Iranian rescue depicted in
the 2012 film Argo

More real-life "Argo" artifects

Unfortunately, the exhibit ended today, but there’s always the International Spy Museum, which we’ll be sure to visit the next time we’re in Washington, D.C. 

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