Gallery: Spying That Shaped History

In this gallery, seven exhibits illustrate the impact of intelligence on history, including successes and failures, new tech tools, and the tension in balancing the needs for secrecy and liberty.


  • Spying Launched A Nation
  • Spying in WWII
  • Top Secret
  • Cyber: The New Battlefield
  • Fateful Failures
  • Who Would Have Guessed?
  • License to Thrill Theater

Spy Museum Revamps Culper Spy Ring Exhibit

Experience the all-new and reimagined Spying Launched a Nation exhibit, now showcasing one of the treasures of the Museum’s collection, the Washington Letter and the iconic story of the Culper Spy Ring, the first American spy network.
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Spying Launched A Nation


Meet America’s first spymaster…George Washington and uncover how he used the power of espionage to outsmart and outmaneuver and win the Revolution .

Spying in WWII


From OSS to CIA - Meet the spies, saboteurs, commandos, propagandists, and analysts who aided in Allied efforts on and off the battlefield.

Top Secret


This exhibit explores the tensions between the secrecy necessary for spy agencies to operate and the openness necessary for effective democracy. The stories featured cover the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as well as the 21st century leaker Edward Snowden.

Cyber: The New Battlefield


From propaganda to sabotage, economic interference to political meddling, the brave new world of cyber operations let intelligence agencies gather information or disrupt vital systems swiftly, safely, and remotely.

Fateful Failures


In 1941 and 2001, attacks on the US caught leaders off guard. Japan’s strike at Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terror attacks. This exhibit compares the two events and illustrate some of the many challenges intelligence analysts face in delivering clear warnings that leaders can act on—and show the consequences of getting it wrong.

License to Thrill


Few people live the life of a spy—leaving a gap in the public’s understanding of real intelligence work that has been filled by popular culture for almost a hundred years. Here, visitors can see a sample of spy toys and games from past to present and hear intelligence officers comment on the reality and fiction in spy movies.

Who Would Have Guessed?


You may know their names—but you probably don’t know that they were also spies. This exhibit reveals the unexpected spy stories of people from the Civil War (such as Harriet Tubman), WWII (such as Moe Berg), the Cold War (such as Harpo Marx), and today.



This original letter, written on February 4, 1777 by George Washington, enlisted Mr. Nathaniel Sackett, a New Yorker who had proven himself a valuable spy catcher, as his “intelligence director.” Washington agreed to pay him $50 per month plus $500 to set up a spy network.