Chicago History Museum SPIES, TRAITORS AND SABOTEURS Review – Fear and Freedom In America

Chicago History Museum SPIES
Time Line National Spies Museum

Security or Liberty…Security and Liberty?



Rarely have conjunctions taken on so great a role in American Society as they have in the first decades of the 21st Century. This is the time to hold public discussion of the issues involved and to study the experiences that have brought us to our present situation.

Chicago History Museum SPIES
Radicalism National Spies Museum

The Chicago History Museum joins the thirteen-year exploration of this issue by hosting the final public showing of the national traveling exhibit “Spies, Traitor, and Saboteurs” which opened on April 8th and runs through September. Visitors to the “Spies” exhibit, as it is popularly called, will be exposed to a graphic span of the 200-year old struggle in the United States between safeguarding citizens from internal and external security threats by individuals and nations, while at the same time upholding constitutionally-enshrined Bill of Rights.

From the burning of the White House in 1814 by the British, to political assassinations, to the September 11th attacks, to the countless shootings in schools and public places, one walks through the chronology of our story. This wall of memory is divided into various “streams of experiences” to show patterns of events, highlighting individual incidents in the context of strong threads through time.

These individual time frames provide the headings for each section of the exhibit. The visitor approaches ruins of the White House while looking through a window to see Washington, D.C. engulfed in flames. With each turn of the corner, the displays showcase the American experiences of fear during wartime and in days of relative peace. The human targets of violent reactionaries and subtler “Fifth Columnists” (as internal enemies have been referred) are highlighted. The tumultuous periods of both World Wars, the McCarthy Era, the Civil Rights struggles and the Viet Nam War protests are but a few of them.

Chicago History Museum SPIES
The Cold War National Spies Museum

Waves of reaction against groups, be they African-American, European, Asian or Middle Eastern hit the visitor – from the subtle but violent manipulations of the Ku Klux Klan since 1867 to legislative or executive action curbing immigration in our present day.

The exhibit is as objective and broad a study of the “Liberty and Security” issue as will be found today. In the nearly dozen sections, one is exposed to two centuries of the tension. Some are examples in which we shirk away in shame while others help us hold our heads high as a people who haven’t quite figured out the balance between our hard-won freedoms and the realistic fears that can threaten them.

Chicago History Museum SPIES
9/11 - A Fragment of the World Trade Center National Spies Museum

While not as interactive as some of the museum’s permanent exhibits the “Spies” experience allows visitors a peek into the world of contemporary groups and individuals by looking under a staircase or a small shed and see caches of explosives and assault weaponry – a haunting view of the small space of a person who had grand schemes.

The visitor can tap one of several screens and participate in the thirteen-year poll of relevant issues pertaining to freedom and security.

Age-appropriate for high school students and older, there are guided tours for the middle school level. Violent pictorial depictions are few, but the issues of violence are addressed throughout. The “Spies” exhibit is an important historical piece of our contemporary story. We have shared values even as we have different experiences, but our most-common element is the desire we all hold – to live in peace as a nation and as members of the world community. This experience can help enlighten our perspective to move us forward in very unstable times.


Now thru the end of September, 2016
Monday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 puesday 9:30 a.m. – 7:30pm)
Sunday Noon-5:00 p.m.


Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614


Adults                                                 $16 with audio tours
Seniors (65+)                                      $14 with audio tours
Students (13-22)                                 $14 with audio tours
Children (12 & under)                        FREE
Active Duty Military                          FREE
Members of:
DuSable Museum                                        FREE
National Museum of Mexican Art               FREE
National Museum of Puerto Rican Art        FREE
IL Residents FREE DAY (Tuesdays 12:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.)

For more information visit the Chicago History Museum website

About the Author: Joseph Anthony Rulli

Joseph Anthony Rulli is a transplanted Hoosier, living in Chicago since the fall of 2006. A 1987 graduate of the University of Notre Dame (BA, History) and a 1992 graduate of St. Meinrad School of Theology (MDiv) he taught Social Studies, Religion, Philosophy and History at the high school level. He began writing as a career upon his arrival to his second city and has had two short stories published, a stage play performed, an electronic tour book published online and The Chicago Haymarket Affair, his first print book released in October.

Visit Joseph Rulli’s  website for more info




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