EXPLORE: Espionage, Crime and Punishment in D.C.

Recently, motivated by the desire to try new things in Washington D.C., I decided to go on a themed exploration of some of the city’s museums – an underground/spy/evil-doer theme.
When I was a kid and I came to D.C., one of the most memorable places we visited was the F.B.I. museum tour.  Unfortunately, since 9/11, the museum has been closed and world has been robbed of that fun experience.  In its place, however, a trio of new museums has popped up.  Unlike the Smithsonians, these museums are not free except for one, but be on the lookout for coupons or special events where you can get in for less than the regular admission price.  I gained discounted admissions thanks to my favorite social couponing websites.

The International Spy Museum
(Tickets: Adults $19.95, Children $13.95 – $10 Tuesdays)

Trust No One…..Everything is not as it seems…..With all it’s spy gadgets and gizmos on display, any fan of James Bond et al will love exploring all of the exhibits and memorabilia.  Just try to leave this museum and not find yourself paying more attention to people loitering around the streets of D.C.

007’s Aston Martin

Learn about some of the most notorious spies, including one from the past decade – Robert Hansen.  And look around to find the most ingenious listening device ever invented, in my childish opinion:  the dog poop transmitter!

Fake Poop!

The National Crime and Punishment Museum
(Tickets: Adults $19.95, Children $14.95 – discount on website, CSI Lab $5-7)

Home to the television set for the popular “America’s Most Wanted” show, the museum greets you with, not typical red velvet ropes, but stanchions connected by linked handcuffs.  Clever!  The museum is designed in two parts.  Starting on the 2nd floor, you walk through history of criminal activity and punishment methods, beginning with the middle ages, through the wild west and the mobsters of the 1920s and 30s, to present day.  It’s a lot of information to take in and read, so make sure you allot yourself at least 2 hours because you still need to head to the second part of the museum – crime investigation.

But before you go there, there is a fun exhibit that lets you take the wheel of a police car simulator where you drive to get to the scene of a crime only 6 blocks away.  I’m a good driver (I swear!) and I crashed four different times and never made it to the scene — people you need to stop when you hear the sirens!!  Next to the simulator is a weapon simulator where you hold an accurately weighted Glock pistol and attempt to shoot the bad guys in several different scenario videos.  Make sure not to shoot unarmed people and innocent bystanders!

After that fun break, the next part of the museum explores crime scene investigation by introducing you to a crime scene and allowing you to work through the evidence in different, subject-based rooms and displays, leading you to the final conclusion – the who done it!

As part of your visit, you can opt to purchase an additional interactive experience: the CSI Forensic Lab.  Here, you are given information on the crime that has been committed, the victim, and the three suspects.  Assigned to one of five groups, you travel to each station gathering evidence.  The Alibis and Lies station has you examine the suspects statements against interviews conducted, to validate the alibis, as well as against phone records to find any suspicious activity.  At the forensics fiber lab, you examine a clothing fiber taken from the victim’s body under a microscope and compare it to fibers taken from suspects’ clothes.  Next, you gather information from a witness testimony, DNA analysis, handwriting analysis, and other evidence to come to conclusions about the suspects and their activities.  The final two stations show you how to recreate blood splatter patterns to match with what was documented at the scene and how to lift a fingerprint.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Museum
(Admission is Free.  Located in Arlington in Pentagon City)

Just a few metro stops from D.C. and across from the Pentagon City mall is a free museum that may often get overlooked.  I feel like this museum expands upon the collection that was once displayed in the F.B.I museum.  The DEA Museum chronicles the history of drugs in America, rooted in the opium wars of the mid-1800s between Britain and China which led to its introduction to America by the Chinese tradesmen immigrants working in the West.  It also dispels a common perception that the rise in popularity and frequency of use of marijuana and heroin was in the 1960s and 1970s – they were actually a drugs used by the jazz community, marijuana in the 1920s and the introduction of heroin in the 1930s. The museum timeline ends with a display about the current meth drug abuse in the U.S.

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