The International Spy Museum is moving from its Penn Quarter location to the Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square, reports the Washington Business Journal. Events DC, which manages the city’s convention spaces and some of its sports venues, runs the library as part of a long-term lease with the District and is planning to redevelop the building with Spy Museum owner the Malrite Co.
The project, whose estimated costs are not yet available, would add 58,000 square feet to the Carnegie Library—-40,000 of it underground, where the Spy Museum would be housed. The Historical Society of Washington is currently housed in the library and is expected to be revamped as well. Adam Lewis of the Historical Society wasn’t able to provide additional details but did say that the changes to the society’s offices and library are being negotiated between Events DC and the society’s board.
Part of the deal includes the interesting detail that the Spy Museum, currently one of the most expensive private museums in the District at $20.95 a ticket, will be turned into a nonprofit corporation, which might make the attraction a more natural neighbor for the education and research-minded Historical Society.
Previous projects at the Carnegie Library have struggled to get off the ground. The City Museum opened in the space in 2003 after a $20 million renovation by the Historical Society, but it closed less than two years later. Plans for a music museum also died in 2008. Events DC and Malrite Co.’s plans for the building will still need various levels of approval due the library’s historical status, though Mayor Vince Gray has already praised the project as a chance to “revive and preserve this important historic asset while also strengthening the District of Columbia’s travel and tourism industry.”
Update, 1:55 p.m.: Julie Koczela, chair of the Historical Society’s Board of Directors, doesn’t think that the flashy Spy Museum will make for a strange roommate with the society.
“They’re really trying to document and interpret the history of spying, and we do that with the history of Washington,” says Koczela. “We had to be convinced that it would be a good fit, since it did seem odd, but it turned out our missions are not dissimilar.”
Koczela says that the historical society stands to benefit from the remodeling of the library as well. Its offices and collections, which are now distributed over several floors, will be concentrated on the building’s lower level. “That’ll help us be a more efficient operation, with direct access from K Street into our space,” she says. She’s also looking forward to the influx of visitors that the Spy Museum is likely to attract.
And as for the tiny Historical Society getting overshadowed or edged out by the larger museum? Koczela doesn’t see that happening.
“Of the three tenants we’re the smallest, but we carry a big stick,” she says.
Sarah Kaplan contributed to this post.
Flickr photo by crumj.