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Washington’s Popular Spy Museum Wants to Move to a Spiffier Location

Sep 24, 2013 2:00 pm

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While the move may be good, it’s still a challenge to be a be a museum in this town unless you have “Smithsonian” in your name.

— Eliza Ronalds-Hannon

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Hyungwon Kang  / Reuters

The International Spy Museum opens in Washington. Hyungwon Kang / Reuters


The International Spy Museum, one of the U.S. capital’s most popular tourist attractions, is seeking to move to a historic library in a fast-growing part of the city, its owner said on Monday.

The Malrite Co of Cleveland, the private museum’s owner, and Events DC, Washington’s convention authority, plan to redevelop the Carnegie Library on Mount Vernon Square, including a 40,000-square-foot (3,700-square-meter) underground exhibition space, they said in a statement.

“I applaud Events DC and The Malrite Company for developing a public-private partnership that will revive and preserve this important historic asset” while strengthening tourism, Mayor Vincent Gray said in the statement.

The International Spy Museum claims to have the largest collection of international spy artifacts on public display, including a lipstick pistol and an Enigma cipher machine from World War Two.

The museum has been in a leased site in downtown Washington for 11 years. It draws from 600,000 to 700,000 visitors a year even though it charges admission – now $20.95 – in a city where many museums are free.

The Beaux Arts Carnegie Library on Mount Vernon Square was built in 1903 and served for almost 70 years as the main public library for residents of Washington. No longer used as a library, the building has been leased by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., which uses it as a headquarters.

The total museum project would encompass 58,000 square feet of new space. It would include a visitors center and renovation of Historical Society offices, the statement said.

The Malrite Co would give the new museum to Washington as a non-profit business, it said. Groundbreaking would take place in 2015, with the museum opening in January 2017.

The Carnegie Library is in one of Washington’s fastest-growing areas. It is near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, a hotel under construction and CityCenter, one of the biggest downtown developments in the United States.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Steve Orlofsky.) Copyright (2013) Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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