Spy Museum...More Like Lie Museum

In May of 2005 I had the privilege to meet Stephen Weil, scholar emeritus for the Smithsonian Institution. Mr. Weil was giving a presentation on "Rethinking the Museum and other Meditations" a subject he devoted the last years of his life to. In his obituary The Washington Post included this quote, "The boundaries defining a museum have become very loose these days," he said. "Polemical museums can certainly be very much a part of the mix. Museums are instruments or tools to carry out particular goals. People have agendas, and a museum is one way to advance an agenda. A privately funded museum doesn't have to give equal time."
In addition to discussing the changing nature of the museum Mr Weil also categorized museums according to their function or purpose. There are basically two types of museums; one whose primary mission is the care and collection of artifacts to be used for education and the other for entertainment. Museums whose primary agenda is to entertain are often privately funded. Privately funded museums often have healthier budgets. Able to afford expensive and showy exhibits they attract more patrons than a state or locally funded history or natural science museum does. The primary goal is not education but entertainment.
The Spy Museum can safely be categorized as an entertainment museum. With a ticket fee of $15/person the Spy Museum promises stories of intrigue and spy technology information. From the moment one enters until they are herded into the museum shop, a prevailing theme is repeated, "all spies live a lie. Spies often tell small lies because they live a lie everyday."
Interviews with CIA personnel broadcast on television screens throughout the museum echoed the same message. If you don't have nerves of steel and are unable to lie you could never do this job...the job of a spy.
Perhaps this is true. I honestly don't know the first thing about the requirements or the dangers of "collecting intelligence." I do know this. There are hundreds of children who tour that museum daily. What message are they being taught, "Its ok to live a lie because the most courageous and intelligent American citizens do just that. Its ok to tell small lies because if you work for the FBI or CIA that's what you'll be doing all the time anyway. Ridiculous.
There is nothing I value more in a person, an institution, an idea, than truth. If one can not be honest with God and self what is the meaning of their lives? For what purpose do they exist? If one can not be trusted what value do their words possess?
The museum has incredible potential. Its entertaining and informative. A little too much propaganda for my liking but everyone has an agenda. Although there were stories about the consequences of spies who lied for the wrong side, they did not sufficiently express the importance of honesty and loyalty to one's country and fellow Americans. If more honesty existed among men, countries and nations the nature of collecting intelligence would change. Then, perhaps, spies wouldn't have to live lies.

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Rae said...

But you gotta admit, Angelina, the tunnel was pretty cool!

Boo said...

True, True! I did enjoy myself and am really glad I finally got to check it out. Thanks for going with me Greta.

Sherpa said...

I have a confession. I agree with you about the spy museum, but I'd take it one step further...I pretty much hate it. In a town of free museums, they charge $15? Some of their exhibits are cool, but it left me way underwhelmed. I'll stick to the Smithsonians and free on Thursdays Corcoran, thanks.

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