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Philadelphia: 'Spies, Traitors & Saboteurs' exhibit at National Constitution Center

March 03, 2011|By Terry Gardner | Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • One part of the Philadelphia exhibition looks at the 1916 explosions at Black Tom Island in New York harbor.
One part of the Philadelphia exhibition looks at the 1916 explosions at… (International Spy Museum )

If your knowledge of spies and terrorists is limited to the names of Benedict Arnold, Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin Laden, visit Philadelphia this spring and learn about anarchists and traitors that have haunted America since its birth.

On March 4, “Spies, Traitors & Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America” opens in the National Constitution Center’s new exhibition space in the Center’s lower level. Created by the International Spy Museum in Washington, the exhibition combines artifacts, multimedia elements and interactive exhibits to reveal tales of espionage, treason and deception in the U.S. from 1776 to today. 

The exhibition illustrates the challenge of balancing national security against the civil liberties on which our nation was founded. 

Highlighted events include:

--British troops capturing the city of Washington and burning the White House during the War of 1812;

--German secret agents blowing up a munitions depot in New York harbor and showering Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty with shrapnel and debris on July 30, 1916 (which led to the passage of the 1917 Espionage Act, still in effect today).

Americans aided enemies of our country in these events and others.  Exhibits detail America’s oldest hate group, the Ku Klux Klan, along with 1970’s extremist protest groups such as the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army.

 A timeline traces more than 80 acts of terror, from the Revolutionary War plot to kidnap George Washington to the 1960s church bombings in the South and the attack on New York's World Trade Center in 2001.

 The “Art of the American Soldier” exhibition, originally slated to close Jan. 10, has been extended through March 31 to overlap with the launch of the “Spies” exhibition.

When:  March 4-May 30.

Cost: $15 for adults, $14 for seniors (65 and older) and students (with I.D.), and $11 for children (ages 4-12).  Free for active military personnel and children age 3 and younger.  Admission includes “Art of the American Soldier” (through March 31) and permanent exhibits.

Info: National Constitution Center, Independence Mall, 525 Arch St., Philadelphia; (215) 409-6600.

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