Spy Oxfordshire: Lifting The Veil of Secrecy
Exhibition 28 October 2020 - 17 December 2021
Spy Oxfordshire will get visitors thinking critically about the mysterious world of secret intelligence, once described by CIA Director Allen Dulles as “probably the least understood and most misrepresented of the professions”.
The exhibition will shine a light on previously unknown but fascinating local connections to the intelligence world. Oxfordshire intelligence officers were at the heart of the British war effort during the Second World War: from the commandos that knew no fear and wreaked havoc behind enemy lines, to the codebreakers, analysts, and “connectors of the dots” who provided Prime Minister Winston Churchill with unprecedented insights into the Nazi war machine. Everyone featured in the exhibition has been chosen to illuminate a different part of what is called the “Intelligence Cycle”, the process by which intelligence is collected, analysed, produced, and used by the policymaker in the service of protecting national security. In learning the stories of these remarkable men and women, visitors will see that the truth of intelligence is often stranger than the fiction.
While the exhibition will show that intelligence has a lot more layers to it than what we see in spy fiction, there will be plenty to catch the eye of007 fans eagerly awaiting the release of No Time To Die. Spy Oxfordshire will feature some iconic film props and replicas on loan to the museum, such as the Walther PPK used by Sean Connery in Dr. No and original concept drawings for the PPK/S handgun with dermal sensors - used by Daniel Craig in Skyfall.
Bond author Ian Fleming features heavily in the exhibition alongside his famous literary creation. Objects include Fleming’s walking stick and an exact replica of the golden typewriter he used at his Goldeneye home in Jamaica, where he wrote the 14 Bond novels. On display will be items from the private collection of Mike Vanblaricum of the Ian Fleming Foundation, which have rarely been seen outside the USA, including original storyboards from the film Diamonds are Forever and Sean Connery’s shoes from the film Never Say Never Again.
Artefacts from fictional espionage sit alongside their real-world counterparts, as Spy Oxfordshire will also unveil a collection of rare WW2-era gadgetry, including everything from Special Operations Executive (SOE) lapel and sleeve daggers to dummy pieces of coal used to conceal explosives. SOE parachutists’ equipment, tools and weaponry shared with the French resistance, and uniforms and equipment of women in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) also feature among historic collections helping to illustrate Oxfordshire’s lesser-known contribution to the war effort.
Visitors will be encouraged to think about how everyone, even today, has a stake in the intelligence business. It is part of our daily lives, whether we like it or not, from what we read in the newspapers and the security measures we undergo at the airport to the use that is made by governments and private corporations alike of our internet searches, social media and even shopping habits.
“Ask yourself, as you walk through the exhibition: as a citizen, are you comfortable with what is being done to keep us safe? Are the methods employed by the secret services proportional to the national security threats we face?”, urges the opening to the new exhibition.