- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

Managers of the newly opened International Spy Museum in Northwest are surprised that even in the post-September 11 environment the number of visitors poring over intelligence-gathering memorabilia has surpassed expectations.
Officials initially predicted average annual attendance of 500,000 visitors, but more than 100,000 flocked to the museum in its first month, doubling projections.
"People are always intrigued by espionage," Spy Museum spokeswoman Jennifer Saxon said. "There's more here than they expected to see."
Gadgets are the initial lure, but visitors often linger longer than the allotted two-hour visit because of the information boards that detail the secrets of real-life spies, Miss Saxon said.
A hollow coin hiding a secret code or a microdot that may be subtly passed from spy to spy, or a ring gun that could intimidate an enemy teach visitors like Dave Hall, 66, of Alexandria about elusive techniques.
"It exceeded my expectations," said Mr. Hall, who was browsing the gift store on Monday afternoon after touring the museum. "I liked the variety of technical gadgets the geeky gadgets."
The $40 million, two-story museum in the 800 block of F Street NW houses about 200 gadgets, including cameras hidden in pens and eavesdropping bugs concealed in belt buckles. Miss Saxon said the recent increase in the number of intelligence stories in the news also is piquing the public's interest in the secret world of spies.
Since its July 19 opening between 2,000 to 3,000 people have visited the museum daily and lines have regularly spilled out of the entrance and wrapped around the block, she said.
The daily head count likely will increase as the museum's new programs get under way, such as this season's "The Mind of the Spy," "Intelligence Issues in a Post-9/11 World" and a "Spy's View of History," will likely increase the daily head count, Miss Saxon said.
On Tuesday, the museum started its educational program A Spy's Life: Where Fact and Fiction Collide which explores how fiction has shaped the public's romantic perception of the spy as a crouched genius holding a magnifying glass. During a panel discussion, real spies, scholars and a leading novelist debated the fictional portrayal of the cloak-and-dagger world.
Most of the exhibits reveal the secret techniques of spies or describe the history of spying, and are geared to ages 35 to 55, but please all ages.
Admission is $11 for adults, $8 for children and free for children under 5.
To register for programs, call 202/393-7798 or visit www.spymuseum.org.


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