DEA Museum – Arlington, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

DEA Museum

An extensive, if one-sided, history of U.S. law enforcement's war on drugs. 


While Washington, D.C. is known for the plentiful and often free museums lining the National Mall and scattered elsewhere in the city, there is one D.C.-area museum that even many locals don’t know about.

Tucked in the back of the lobby of the Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters in Arlington, Virginia is a public museum detailing the effects of drug addiction and the law enforcement agency’s history in fighting their manufacture and trafficking.

The agency began collecting objects for future display in 1976. In 1999, the DEA Museum opened at the agency’s headquarters. The museum shows the history of illicit drug use in the United States, beginning with opium in the mid-1800s and continuing to the cocaine smuggling cartels and pharmaceutical drug abuse of the modern day.

On display are hundreds of pieces of paraphernalia, firearms, photographs of celebrities and athletes that died of drug overdoses, disguises that were used by undercover agents, passports belonging to former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, the wreckage of a crashed makeshift aircraft that was flown over the USA-Mexico border, and numerous other objects. The collection provides an extensive, if one-sided, history of law enforcement’s war on drugs.

Know Before You Go

The museum is located one block north of the Pentagon City metro stop. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 AM to 4 PM. Admission is free.

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