When the International Spy Museum opened in Washington, D.C. in 2002, it became the largest museum of its kind, with many objects on public display for the first time. It remains the only public museum in the U.S. dedicated solely to espionage. But there are other smaller, quirky museums that profile the spy and private eye trades that don't get as much attention.
The Spy And Private-Eye Museum in Austin, Texas, is the personal collection of Ralph Thomas, who logged thousands of hours as a P.I. while amassing various paraphernalia related to the trade. The exhibits include everything from rare documents from Pinkerton Detective Agency case files dating back to 1877, to 1930s polygraph equipment, to a CIA covert gun built into a tire gauge.
The P.I. Museum in San Diego contains historic treasures and artifacts gathered by Private Investigator Ben Harroll for over 30 years. Harroll's collection includes both the real and the fictional, including a letter penned in 1852 by Eugene Francois Vidocq, spy cameras and tracking devices and Dick Tracy and Magnum P.I. collectibles.
The Spy Exchange and Security Center in Austin, Texas, is one of the largest showrooms for private eye gear, books and manuals in the U.S. (which is pretty neat on its own), but it also has two rooms set aside for a collection of historic paraphernalia. While you're there, pick up a smiley-face spy camera. The kids will never know.