My name is Dimitry Ivanov and I am 48-year-old Russian fisherman from Irkutsk. Or at least I was for the afternoon.
I you have any interest in history, politics, spies, lock-picking or crawling through air-conditioning ducts the International Spy Museum is the place for you. We’d read some mixed reviews of the place and so were pleasantly surprised at how interesting it all was. There’s a lot of text describing spy techniques and equipment but it’s interspersed with a range of hands-on activities. Upon entering you choose a cover identity and then you answer some questions about it as you progress through the museum. We managed to hold our identities for most of the afternoon until talking in a gravelly Russian accent became too much for my throat.
We did get to crawl through an air-conditioning vent; although who knew that they put carpet down inside aircon ducts? We learnt a lot of obscure and interesting things about spycraft. And we saw a lot of ingenious and somewhat hilarious spy equipment. Almost all the equipment is from the 1950s and 60s when, gasp, a spy could fit a camera into a briefcase or a recorder into a shoe. I would dearly love to know what the well-dressed spy is using these days now that the iPhone has made almost their entire traditional arsenal redundant.
The highlight of our visit was the Spy in the City tour. We were issued with a COBRA unit with fingerprint scanner, GPS and direct line back to spy HQ. It seems that a strange shortage of trained spies had developed and they had to recruit a ten-year-old boy to do an important job, backed up by his family of course. Cal had a great time being led around the city and solving a range of clues to complete his mission and achieve the rank of Spymaster.
We completed our visit to the Museum with a tour of the shop which was, it has to be said, one of the best museum shops we’ve visited. A whole range of cool and relevant stuff. The boys came away with a new t-shirt each.
Now one of the main things they emphasised during our afternoon was to watch out for the strange or unusal. The person loitering in the wrong place may be a counter-agent. The van with darkened windows may conceal a camera. So we were a bit nonplussed to receive the burgers we ordered for dinner complete with salad, chips and an oreo chocolate biscuit. We rated that highly suspicious; but the boys dealt with the problem by eating the evidence.
For those who may come after: The Spy Museum is a better place for kids than many of the reviews might lead you to believe. That said, you could save money and have a more dependable good time by just doing the Spy in the City tour. It’s only $14 for a COBRA unit and that’s good value for 90 minutes of entertainment for the family.