Arts & Culture

Discovery Place Opens Top Secret: License to Spy Exhibit

Nancy Drew your way through stations to solve the mystery

A desk in the new Discovery Place holds a number of Cold War-era props, including a rotary phone, a radio, an oscilloscope, and, in the background, shooting targets.
An interior look at Discovery Place’s new Top Secret: License to Spy exhibit. (Photo by Hailey Knutsen)

Discovery Place Science will challenge visitors to channel their inner secret agent through their new exhibit, Top Secret: License to Spy, scheduled to open Saturday, Jan. 28. The exhibit feels like a walk-through on a movie set with James Bond vibes, featuring interactive problem-solving challenges along the way. 

Upon entry of the exhibit, spies of all ages are given the top-secret mission of figuring out who stole the world’s most powerful computer chip from the “Brainiac Corporation” and why. Visitors will grab an “agent spy file” with six possible suspects then are tasked with recording clues from each station at the exhibit. 

A placard describes the mission in the Discovery Place, as described in the story.
Your mission, shall you choose to accept it. (Photo by Hailey Knutsen)

Each station includes a “message from the agency” with directions for the challenge. After the directions are followed, spies are tasked with uncovering clues in the form of passwords, names, places and codes. After all clues are gathered from the stations, the Sherlocks-in-training head to the debriefing room to unveil who stole the computer chip and what their motivation was. 

“What’s unique about this exhibition is its cooperative nature,” said Catherine Wilson Horne, president and CEO of Discovery Place, in a release leading up to the exhibit’s opening. “Top Secret is designed to encourage group participation, and we look forward to welcoming a new class of spies-in-training to fulfill missions packed with hands-on science learning.”

Queen City Nerve took a preview walk-through of the exhibit on Friday, and though not all construction was yet finished on some of the installations, exhibit descriptions on the website describe challenges as including:

  • Uncovering a radio bug with an oscilloscope
  • Using lasers to monitor conversations 
  • Positioning a satellite correctly to receive a message

According to staff at the museum on Friday, the materials for the exhibit arrived just two days before media members were invited to walk through. With construction workers rushing to put everything together in a mere 72 hours, the exhibit is expected to be fully up and running by Saturday and will remain open through April 16.

According to exhibit producers Imagine Exhibitions, the exhibit traditionally includes 21 different challenges including hidden camera, laser maze, guess the password, safe breaker, and more. Scitech Discovery Centre created the exhibit.  

“Imagine Exhibitions is proud to partner with Scitech to bring Top Secret to Discovery Place Science,” stated Tom Zaller, CEO of Imagine Exhibitions, in the release. “Diving into the mind of a secret agent to learn about the world of spies and espionage is a creative way to engage visitors and encourage them to learn about fascinating, cutting-edge technologies being used today.”

Entry is included with general admission, with tickets running $23-$24 for adults, $18-$19 for children, $20-$21 for seniors, and free for Discovery Place members.


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