Thursday, September 21, 2023

SPY: The Secret World of Espionage Begins Limited Run at Franklin Institute


Philadelphia, PA, USA /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —  The Franklin Institute’s newest exhibition, SPY: The Secret World of Espionage opened to the public on Saturday, May 4, for a limited time.  Extraordinarily rare treasures drawn from world’s leading intelligence agencies — the CIA, the FBI, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), as well as the immense private collection of intelligence historian H. Keith Melton, are unlocked and on exhibit – many for the first time ever – in the Mandell Center at The Franklin Institute through October 6.  PECO is the Presenting Sponsor of the SPY exhibition, which grants unprecedented access into the highly-secreted world of the CIA and features over 200 historical artifacts and authentic espionage-related gadgets, including the scripts and studio documents from the real life mission that inspired the Academy Award winning film, Argo. To coincide with the Philadelphia premiere of SPY: The Secret World of Espionage, Melton has just published Spy Sites of Philadelphia,which takes readers through two and a half centuries of Espionage in the City of Brotherly Love.

“Philadelphia has long been a hotbed of spy activity over the years, and even today our fascination with the mysterious world of espionage continues,” said Dennis M. Wint, President  & CEO of The Franklin Institute. “The extensive collection of artifacts, documents, tools and interactive displays in SPY so vividly tell the intriguing and important tales of espionage that have shaped our world today.”


Drawn from the recently de-classified collection of the CIA are objects ranging from a saddle used by a CIA team member in Afghanistan, following the attacks of 9/11 to the Cockpit of the A-12 Oxcart Spy Plane from 1962, one of only nine remaining in the world.  The exhibit also features highlights from the 10,000-plus personal artifact collection of H. Keith Melton, including the actual Ice Axe used to kill Leon Trotsky, one of the founders of the Russian revolution. Visitors to SPY will discover the real-life evolution of spy technology and experience life as a spy by navigating through an actual laser field, using voice altering technologies to conceal their voice and creating their very own spy disguise.

Among the extraordinarily rare items are:

From the CIA Museum:

  • Insectothopter, the world’s first insect-sized unmanned aerial vehicle used to gather intelligence-from the air
  • Charlie the Catfish, one of two CIA Robotic Catfish, used to explore the use of unmanned underwater vehicles for aquatic missions
  • Pigeon camera, a camera small and light enough to be carried by a pigeon
  • Cockpit of the A-12 Oxcart Spy Plane, one of only nine remaining in the world
  • An original Presidential Daily Brief Binder

From the collection of H. Keith Melton :

  • Enigma Machine, a cipher machine used to develop nearly unbreakable codes by the German Army during WWII  which led to the development of the world’s first super computer
  • “Sleeping Beauty” motorized semi-submersible from WWII
  • Wel-Bike-a rapid deployment collapsible motorcycle used by Allied forces during WWII
  • Picasso Lithograph of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, 1952
  • Dead Drop Rat, used during the Cold War to hold a wad of money or roll of film


BASE Entertainment (Producer) develops, produces and manages intellectual properties generated for live entertainment stages in North America, Asia and Brazil. BASE’s current production activity in Las Vegas includes the following:  Rock Of Ages at the Venetian,  Peepshow at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Jersey Boys at The Paris, Absinthe at Caesars Palace, Defending the Caveman and Million Dollar Quartet (opening February 2013), at Harrah’s.  BASE also presented an exclusive holiday engagement of the all new Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Spectacular production at The Palazzo. Previous production activity in Las Vegas includes: Phantom at The Venetian, Wayne Brady- Making It Up at The Venetian, and Stomp Out Loud at Planet Hollywood.  In addition, BASE operates the Showroom and PH Live at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.  At Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, BASE programs both the Grand Theater, previously home to both The Lion King and Wicked, and the Sands Theater, where Jersey Boys is currently playing (in partnership with Dodger Properties and Showtime).  In Brazil, BASE, in partnership with Geo Eventos, recently produced Priscilla Queen of the Desert in Sao Paulo in March 2012.  Spy: The Secret World of Espionage represents the premiere museum quality exhibition developed and presented by BASE.  BASE Entertainment’s headquarters are in New York, and its founders include industry veterans Brian Becker and Scott Zeiger.  For more information please visit

Located in the heart of Philadelphia, The Franklin Institute is a renowned and innovative leader in the field of science and technology learning, as well as a dynamic center of activity. Pennsylvania’s most visited museum, it is dedicated to creating a passion for learning about science by offering access to hands-on science education. For more information, visit

Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

Related Articles

Latest Articles