Thursday Door–Spy Museum

Spy Museum Door
International Spy Museum. Washington, DC

I spent last week in Washington, DC and one of my primary non-business goals was to get a bunch of pictures of doors. Washington is full of iconic buildings with even more iconic doors.

Washington didn’t cooperate.

As you may have read, I got sick. Being sick was bad, but not so bad for door photos because I was much more comfortable walking on the surface of Washington than I was riding in the Metro (with no bathroom handy and no way to open the door until they decide to stop). However, it also rained all week. When it wasn’t raining, the backdrop for my photos was a sky that was almost the same color as many of the buildings I had hoped to photograph.

OK, I’ll stop whining.

I arrived in Washington on Sunday. I discovered that my hotel was literally next door to the International Spy Museum. My daughter had been to this museum years ago and recommended it as a place I would enjoy. Once inside, I discovered some of the largest and most interesting doors I’ve ever seen. The door I chose to feature was guarding the entrance to some of the smaller exhibits in the museum. People must have thought I was nuts taking a picture of the door, but they don’t know Norm. Flash photography was prohibited, so the images are a little dark, but I think you get the idea. That’s a big door!

The museum experience was worth the time and the cost. Yes, unlike many of the heavy-hitter museums in Washington, the Spy Museum is not free. I opted for the general admission package, but you can pay extra if you want to participate in a spy adventure during your visit. Since other people are doing that, they ask everyone to memorize a spy identity. I was Antonio Silva, 58, a carpenter from Brazil. I was heading to Lisbon to visit family and I would be there for six days. Got it. I was comfortable being a 58 year old carpenter, I could fake that.

When I was taking a picture of one of the doors displayed in the gallery, someone asked me where I was heading:


That’s interesting. Why Lisbon, if I might ask?

I have family there.”

What do you do for a living?

I’m a carpenter.”

Oh, I was wondering why you seemed so interested in the doors.”

The last bit struck me as odd. They were either working hard to provide their own cover story, or they were very much caught up in the role of being a spy.

The fact of the matter is, I have worked as a carpenter and as a cabinet maker and I was fascinated by these large wooden doors. It’s not easy to make large doors. The joints at the top and bottom of the hinge side are under enormous pressure and are prone to sagging, but the door must remain square in order to close.

I know, you didn’t come here for a lesson in door making. Fair enough. Enjoy the doors in the gallery and if you’re ever in Washington, DC, I’d recommend the International Spy Museum

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors series. If you like photography and doors, consider joining the fun. Follow the link. Norm has made it very easy to play.

49 thoughts on “Thursday Door–Spy Museum

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  1. Half-way through my earlier comment I realized someone somewhere could be typing and might post before me so I just hit “Post Comment” button. Great post and great pictures, especially the Enigma one. I wanted to tell you for a long time that I love forensics and criminal psychology and when you talk about your career in chemistry in your Advice post, I sometimes feel why in India there is no importance for all these things. Maybe there is now, but back in 2002, I had no guidance about it. However, I still read about it whenever I get my hands on such topics. In the spy world, I love Jason Bourne more than Jack Bauer and James Bond. Well, all have JB as initials.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. On the board first Sharukh – Thank you! I love Jason Bourne! Bletchley Park was a fantastic place to visit. Maybe I will do a post on that later this summer. This was a fun museum, but very crowded. I waited in line to get close to some exhibits, and photos were very hard to take due to the glass and lighting but I learned a lot. I particularly like the historic stuff, the mini-camera of the 50s and 60s, wire taps, bugs and listening devices. Forensics remains an interest of mine, but it still can’t live up to its TV image. I do have a post about that as a follow-up to the Advice series (which ends on Monday).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I wish I had had more time Norm, but it was very interesting. I would go again, except there are so many other museums in DC. I’ll have some doors later this summer from the ones I couldn’t get to.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s an awesome door. I’ll take your recommendation under consideration, Dan, when I head to D.C. in October. But first, the Holocaust Museum! And I might see if I can get on the schedule to tour the Capitol. There’s so much to see in D.C. and so little time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! That is so true Mary. I’ve been three times, in the past year and each time I tried to figure out a way to stay over one day just for tourist stuff but it hasn’t worked out. I wanted to visit the Holocaust Museum but I just couldn’t make that fit. This worked because it was 50 feet from my hotel.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The line was formidable Teagan but it’s a line to an elevator so it moves in large chunks. I think you would enjoy it, it’s a treasure trove of artifacts that you might want to use in a future adventure story. Thanks for the comment – have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m fascinated with all the spy stuff. I loved the TV series Bletchley Park, and Foyles War which always has spy stuff going on. One of the first spy novels I read when I was a teen was a John Le Carré novel. I was hooked since.

    Your character was perfect for you I thought since I know you like wood-working. The doors are interesting in that don’t have knobs or pulls to get open. Reminding me of Sarah Winchester and her mansion here in town. She had doors going nowhere to trick spies, and ghosts. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. That’s a good point, about the doors maybe being to trick people. I certainly spent some time trying to figure out if that actually went somewhere. I worked with a guy who had been in the US Army Cryptographer Corps for 20 years. It’s fascinating stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I wanted to tour it ever since my daughter went there but I never realized how close it was to the place where my meetings have been. I am normally in a different hotel, but even that one is only a 10-minute walk.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey, look at you, Dan — slipping into my hometown and I didn’t even know it! Okay, I’m really from the Maryland suburbs AROUND Washington (which is why I’m a diehard Orioles fan and not a Nationals fan), but still. I went to high school in D.C., I work in D.C. — I know this place well. So it was very cool to see that your latest set of doors was from the Spy Museum.

    Glad you enjoyed your time here. Hope you come back soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I knew that you worked in DC, I would have let you know I was going to be in town. If I end up back that way, I will mention it to you. I don’t have a good understanding of just how much ground the “DC suburbs” cover.


  5. Interesting photos. I haven’t been to that museum – yet – but I was fascinated by the movie about Alan Turig. The doors are quite unique and I can imagine your interest with your background.

    I especially liked your last photo. On one of my DC visits about a decade ago, we noticed the beginnings of redevelopment where the old buildings (or at least their facades) were preserved and contemporary upper additions/extensions were setback, providing both a streetside view of bygone era and a broader view of the fabulous meshing of new with old. I love it. I don’t know if DC was the first to utilize this kind of renovation code, but I now see some places in other cities, including Denver, where newer additions are setback rather than flush and I love the contrast.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sammy. I do like the fact that they have preserved these buildings. Judging from the placement of stairs and odd little passages, I am guessing that the museum exists in the original interiors of these buildings. That works well for this place. They actually did that in Hartford in the 80s. They preserved the facade of a 5-story stone and concrete bank as the front entrance to a 20-some story steel and glass building. I plan a walking tour of Hartford later this summer (to gather door photos for the winter – I love this series).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yea! I’m eager to watch the Connecticut episode on Aerial America. I, too, love the door series. Every project like this and Jude’s bench series enhance our awareness of surroundings and details, and keep us in ‘now’. I have to actually get out of the house if I want to participate 😀

        Funny story about Raqi and doors … She likes to watch a couple of those home improvement shows (Property Brothers and Love It or List It). Go figure for a 9-year-old!! Anyway one day she was over here and came to a sudden halt at the entrance to our den … “Why, Mima, YOU have French doors!!!”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s funny about the French doors. Next she’ll be talking about the curb appeal of your house. I need to avoid the bench series. It’s hard enough finding doors to photograph but at least every building has one. Benches around there are few and far between.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. LOL yeah it’s kinda scary how quickly she picks up concepts! On the other hand she has yet to realize that SHE has a set of French doors in her house 😉.

            I feel like a spy when I’m out taking a photo of someone’s flowers or art or whatever. ‘Shooting from the hip’ doesn’t give me very good photos. I’m such a chickenshit 😎

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Be careful what you wish for Joey. I have built doors, and I actually have a set of doors to build this summer for a garden shed type structure that is mounted to our garage. I’ll give you a play-by-play when I take that project on. Thanks for the comment and encouragement.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. That museum sounds really cool, especially if you actually get to take on a secret identity!
    I have to echo Joey, I’d definitely be up for a post on making doors as I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than I realise!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks but, you know, just a carpenter from Brazil. Just visiting family. Here in western New England, we only have a tiny fraction of the museums that DC has, and I haven’t seen all of them. If your son likes spy stuff, he would like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Don’t feel wrong about whining Dan. You were a tourist, a sick one no less. That is not a good thing while trying to enjoy a visit to such an interesting city.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You , evidently , need to hone your spy skills , Dan .You should have been able to infiltrate the museum , anyway , and pay no fee. But , it sounds like a great trip . And remember : Name , rank , serial number if captured . Cyanide pill could be a little over-the-top . Stick to the carpenter identity , especially if you are missing a digit tip or two. And , you speak Portuguese fluently , obviously .

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am a big fan of mysteries and espionage. We got to see a lot when I was younger in Washington DC but my favorite thing was going as a Senior “first class” girl scout to be a guide/docent for a week in Congress.Not much action happens in the summer time in either of the legislatures so goofing off fit me at the time.
    These days, I would enjoy the spy museum. I really liked how you went into character and still think that would make this cool. Sorry to hear about being sick. Late to the posts for your trip so you may have already said, was it a food or motion sickness? The greenish door looked weird. Your main door exhibit was really a great feature here. Interesting, not meant to be “used,” though. Didn’t we use to follow each other but I got in bad habit of just liking stuff, Dan?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. We have followed each other for a while, but I keep losing your posts in the Reader. After I saw that you liked a comment of mine, I edited those preferences to get an email update when you post. Maybe that will keep me in your loop. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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