The New Downtown: Spies, Cops and Fugitives
When the MCI Center and the International Spy Museum opened, in 1997 and 2002 respectively, hard as it may be to imagine today, the East End of downtown was pretty much a dead zone.
Now, since nothing succeeds like success and nothing exceeds like excess, the neighborhood may soon be home to museums telling the stories not only of spies, but also cops and crooks. The National Law Enforcement Officers Association, which already has an outdoor memorial a couple of blocks from the Abe Pollin sports arena, is now planning an $80 million museum about police work scheduled to open in 2011. The museum would be built beneath the existing memorial at the Judiciary Square Metro station.
And the Washington Business Journal reports that the TV show America's Most Wanted is putting together a National Crime and Punishment Museum to be located at Terrell Place, immediately south of the sports arena.
Can you imagine a Saturday trip downtown in 2013 or so, taking in a crime and punishment intensive course at the Spy, Police and Crime museums before adjourning to an evening of bloodshed at the new Shakespeare Theatre?
Who knew when the Bullets moved back into the city that the celebration of society's dark arts and dysfunctions would become the economic engine of the new downtown?
The police museum will include artifacts from the annals of crime, such as "collectible crime cards, featuring the likes of Machine Gun Kelly and John Dillinger," and a display of police uniforms sponsored by the good folks at MagLite, maker of those special police flashlights. There's to be all manner of interactive stuff, including a faux 911 call center and a place where visitors can play forensic investigator, taking on various crime puzzles.
It's not clear what that will leave for the America's Most Wanted folks to put in their crime museum. The Business Journal said something about there being an exhibit of gangsters' clothes. Well, ok. We shall see. But as half a century of TV has taught us, you can't have enough crime shows.
And as for the East End, it's nice to play out our fantasies in crime museums, but the real crime in the neighborhood continues to take place at the Pollin arena, where, with Gilbert Arenas gone and another sorry hockey season behind us, it's the Wizards and Caps who risk arrest. But that's another story.
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