Reimagined Spy Exhibit

The newly renovated Spying Launched a Nation exhibit at the International Spy Museum launches today in Washington, DC with a grand opening event. Centered around George Washington’s letter to Nathaniel Sackett establishing America’s first civilian spy ring, the exhibit was reenvisioned to appeal to multigenerational visitors and give the physical letter new life through an immersive and layered storytelling experience.

While the letter was previously displayed in the museum next to a statue of George Washington, museum staff noticed that visitors often passed through the exhibit without recognizing the significant artifact. Considering its importance within the legacy of spying and within the museum’s collection, the exhibit team, led by Vice President of Exhibits Kathryn Keane, wanted to recreate the exhibit into an immersive narrative centered around the artifact itself. The new exhibit fills a 270-degree presentation space with the sights and sounds of the Revolutionary War. The 5-minute multidimensional film plays out on 8 surfaces and features original reenactment shooting, animation and motion graphics, dynamic text, and Hamilton star Christopher Jackson as the host.

“At the Spy Museum we are constantly looking at new and inventive ways to bring the history of espionage to life,” shares Christopher Costa, executive director at the International Spy Museum. “With the support of the Verstandig Family Foundation, we have installed state-of-the-art technology that allows people to step directly into this iconic 250-year-old story of Revolutionary War intelligence.  Face-to-face with the letter written by George Washington, visitors will see the birth of the Culper Spy Ring – a group responsible in part, through the intelligence it gathered, for the country we live in today.”

Immersive, multi-layered, and built around a physical artifact, the new Spying Launched a Nation exhibit is the first of its kind for the museum. Working with Peter Hyde Design, Electrosonic, and Explus, Cortina Productions helped the Spy Museum reinvigorate the story of George Washington as the nation’s first spymaster and the important people who helped win America’s independence. The exhibit space, which includes wall projections, floor graphics, four transparent OLED pilons, and casework for the artifact, was designed to encourage movement around the room and become surrounded by the history linked to George Washington’s letter. The layered 3D immersive experience adds interest and engagement as the story itself is a choreographed presentation specifically crafted to direct visitors’ attention around the room as the story unfolds. As Principal of Film & Animation Amanda Scherer, explains, “Each screen and content placement as well as how the story is told visually across each of the eight surfaces is very intentional. We designed the experience to make the most of the space while maintaining visitors’ attention throughout the story.”

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Project Team:
Media Design and Production by Cortina Productions
Exhibit Design by Peter Hyde Design
AV System Integration by Electrosonic
Fabrication by Explus