CIA Museum – McLean, Virginia - Atlas Obscura
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McLean, Virginia

CIA Museum

This collection of artifacts from the history of the CIA is as secretive as the organization itself. 

Down the well-guarded halls of the CIA compound in Langley, Virginia there is a collection of declassified artifacts, weapons, and other items from the America’s secret history, collectively known as the CIA Museum.

Apparently saddened that so much of his work and that of his fellow officers was being buried in classified vaults or being lost altogether, then-Executive-Director William Colby founded the CIA Museum in 1972. Since its establishment the collection has amassed more than 3,500 pieces of intelligence history, with pieces as diverse as previously classified documents, specialized weaponry, unique uniforms, even a purpose-built semi-submersible. Among the illustrious spy heirlooms, mainly donated from current and former members of the CIA and its previous incarnation as the Office of Special Services, are the famous early-20th century German encryption engine called The Enigma Machine, and even more recently, Osama Bin Laden’s AK-47. 

From hollow coins designed to hide secret messages to cameras built to mount on militarized pigeons, the CIA Museum is a fascinating catalogue of a history that was always meant not to be seen. The major downside of the museum is that is located at CIA Headquarters and thus is not open to the public, but exhibitions of the collection are often presented outside of the central location and approved visitors to CIA can easily see the collection. Anyone wishing to be placed on a government watch list can view many of the astounding pieces of gear on the CIA’s website, just make sure to keep it on the hush-hush. 

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