International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum (SPY) opened on May 12, 2019, in Washington, DC. The completely re-imagined Museum opened in a new purpose-built 140,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building—more than doubling its original size. Working with the founder for over 20 years, G&A led the creative visioning, business strategy, and audience engagement tactics for the original Museum concept opened in 2002. After 16 years and engaging over 9 million visitors, SPY was recognized for pioneering a new breed of self-sustaining, experience-first museums. Building on that same innovative spirit, G&A designed the overall visitor experience including exhibitions, media, retail, lobby, and graphics that, again, push the boundaries of innovative storytelling and immersive design. 

Image Credit: © Albert Vecerka/Esto
Image Credit: © Albert Vecerka/Esto
Our vision for the new SPY invites the audience into a world of intrigue—a personal exploration that immerses visitors into the experience of living their cover. Through objects, immersion, light, and media, the visitor becomes the subject, and the exhibits become the stage.
Cybelle Jones | Principal & Executive Director, G&A
Image Credit: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

People begin their undercover mission in the Spies and Spy Masters Gallery where theatrical vignettes and walls of trade tools bring human intelligence stories to life. Each vignette uses artifacts, media, audio and first-person story to place you face-to-face with the infamous spies and their masters. From Morten Storm’s terrifying personal interview about his time with al Qaeda to the infamous Mata Hari and the revolutionary slave-turned-spy, James Armistead Lafayette; the emotional storytelling is a dramatic entry into the tradecraft of stealing secrets.

Visitors are invited to leave behind their known identity before entering the shadowy underground world of spying. An RFID-powered Undercover Mission engages visitors throughout the museum to put their spying skills to the test. From asset recruitment and tool selection to analysis and decision making, it’s an exhilarating, and fun, personal journey through the intelligence process.

Photo Credit: Sam Kittner for International Spy Museum
Image Credit: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

A culmination of the journey places visitors into the role of the President who needs to make a decision based on the intelligence analysis received. G&A created this “Red-Teaming” interactive to recreate the CIA’s process of pinpointing Osama bin Laden’s hiding place. Using deductive reasoning, interactive gaming, soundscape, and film, it’s an exhilarating look at the real-life executive decision process that’s already become a standout moment at SPY.

Image Credit: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

A standout moment at the Museum, a mirrored Infinity Room installation depicts the limitless expanse of cyberspace.  Bringing invisible concepts to light, this moment is sure to become a crowd favorite.

The new Spy Museum is as intriguing and surprising as the stories it tells. From an infinity mirror room, reflecting the latest battlefield of Cyberspace—an infinite and undiscovered tool for spying today—to a recreation of West Berlin, the City of Spies—it pulls the visitor into the hidden world of espionage, layering real-life stories behind intelligence events of the past to the latest applications for spying today.
Sanne van Haastert | Lead Exhibition Designer, G&A
Image Credit: © Albert Vecerka/Esto
Image Credit: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

Much like the content itself, the design throughout the Spy Museum is just as elusive with surprising details hidden throughout the space. Easter Eggs present themselves as visitors walk through—adding to the intrigue and delight as people experience the museum. Shown here, a lenticular wall treatment to spell out the word “ANALYSIS.” You’ll only capture this hidden gem if you pay close attention while walking by.

Image Credit: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

Walking through ‘An Uncertain World’ takes visitors back in time to some of the most infamous terrorist events that shaped world history. From the Oklahoma City Bombing to the Berlin Olympics, visitors are transported back to that place in time. Graphic flooring and wall illustrations recreate the scene with physical props, extrusions, audio, lighting, and little surprises along the way.

Image Credit: © Albert Vecerka/Esto
International Spy Museum
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Interactive Media & Films, Exhibition & Experience Design, Signage & Wayfinding, Master Planning & Retail Strategy
Paul Rosenthal, History Associates
Script Writing
Available Light
Lighting Design
Cortina Productions
Interactive Media & Films
Kubik Maltbie
AV Integration
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners: RSHP | Hickok Cole