By Christopher Ludgate
Upon entering New York City’s SPYSCAPE, the first of its kind spy-themed museum, intrigue was in the air in anticipation of impressively high-tech interaction and immersion into the real world of espionage.
Adding to the mystique of New York City’s diverse landscape, architect David Adjaye’s new mid-town structure is imposing and sleek. Checking in to the mod space, the atmospheric lighting illuminated stark monotones as glowing electric blue letters flashed across monitors.
With microchip I.D.s soon attached to our wrists, my friend, Bill, and I scanned our identities and submitted some stats as the monolithic kiosks flashed our instructions. Then we were directed into the massive nearly pitch-black glass encased elevator that descended.
A Bond Movie
The doors closed behind us as a narrative voiced by a British woman who could have come fresh of the set of a Bond movie began to provoke paranoia with images and with facts about the real-life elements of espionage and personal privacy collection by governments and certain corporate oligarchs.
After our eye-popping ride, we exited into the maze of elaborate, highly interactive, and ambient sections that would use analytical tools designed to evaluate exactly what kind of the 10 spy profiles we each would match.
“SPYSCAPE provides a wonderfully creative, interactive, and stimulating experience that imparts tremendous insights into the conduct of spycraft and intelligence operations.” General David Petraeus (US Army, Ret.), Former commander of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and coalition forces in Afghanistan, and former Director of the CIA remarked, giving a bit more weight to the thought that did go into creating the experience.
The Mission: Complete your Encryption skills. Can you keep a secret or decipher one to save a life? Then head into Deception – How well can you detect a lie – or are you as covert as you think? Then off to test your 360-degree Surveillance and the laser tunnel skills where you will be watched by voyeurs outside.
And in between these challenges, the kiosks engage in testing brain power, risk-taking, and math skills among other rousing questions that might have one scratching your head and some kids exclaiming, “So cool!”
The informative and historical aspects of the museum educate on actual events and intelligence agents like Alan Turing who decoded the Nazi spy encryption that was instrumental in ending WWII, thanks to his decoding invention, ‘Bombe’. Costumes and coding machines are also displayed throughout the floor plan.
We learned about the teenager who broke into the CIA’s website, and infamous spy Virginal Hall, among others.
Debrief: After an afternoon of diversion and mystery, we found ourselves standing inside the debrief room swiping our microchips for some personal discovery with our respective test results appearing animatedly on screen, flashing our algorithms and analysis.
Maybe you’ll find your top qualities are Mathematics, Independence, and Perfectionism with a knack for observation, agility and calculated risks? Then you’d be in good company as a Cryptologist with yours truly.
But most importantly, are you inquisitive enough to find out just what kind of spy you or the other guy watching you might be?
SPYSCAPE is developed and funded by private investment group Archimedia, whose other investments include Aman Resorts, Moncler, and Virgin Mobile, along with spy-themed television and film projects, including the John Le Carré stories The Night Manager and A Most Wanted Man.
SPYSCAPE, 928 8th Ave, New York, NY 10019; +1 212-549-1941
Senior Travel Writer Christopher Ludgate is a travel & culture journalist based out of his native New York City. Chris combines his multi-faceted professions and is ever drawn to adventure and creative outlets. His travel writing pursuits have lead to working with publications such as Passport Magazine, LAX in-flight, AIR Chicago, FLY Washington, and, of course, GoNOMAD.com. Chris is an award-winning filmmaker with films in distribution and screenings around the globe.