Spies reveal their secrets in a Paris exhibition

The exhibition “Guerres Secrètes” (Secret Wars) tells the story of the intelligence services working for the world powers during the last century. The event runs until January 29, 2017 at the Musée de l’Armée – Invalides (Paris Region).

An umbrella concealing a poison syringe, lipstick incorporating a mini-pistol, and even, a replica rat booby-trapped with explosives… What if sometimes reality outshined fiction? Visitors will quickly get just this impression on viewing the most spectacular pieces in the “Guerres Secrètes” exhibition. Without neglecting the great fictional spies (James Bond et al), this Paris retrospective places particular attention on the realities of the intelligence services whose work is decoded across nine thematic sections.

Spying during war time, but also during peace time

What is an agent? How does he build his cover? What risks are involved? These are just some of the many questions addressed by “Guerres Secrètes”. “The exhibition presents the methods of action available to politicians and the military in periods of peace and war,” explains Christophe Bertrand, curator of the contemporary department at the Musée de l’armée. The exhibition’s itinerary and layout unravel all the intelligence disciplines (espionage and counter-espionage, clandestine actions, propaganda operations etc.) covering a broad historical period from the Second Empire to the end of the Cold War. While the French services are extensively presented, their British, German, American or Soviet colleagues are also treated in the exhibition.

Intelligence at the service of political power

The exhibition’s major lesson shows that the hand of power often lies hidden behind the spies’ mission accounts or authorizations. At the beginning of the exhibition a quote from Constantin Melnik (coordinator of the French secret services at the turn of the 60s) reminds us: “Intelligence is not an end in itself but an instrument of political decision”. Further developing this theme, “Guerres Secrètes” proposes a fascinating series of video interviews with former French prime ministers. Mentioning details, they all relate how they worked with the secret services. These interviews represent some rare testimonials to discover this winter at the Musées de l’Armée.


Useful information

Guerres Secrètes Exhibition
Musée de l’Armée Invalides
Metro Varenne or Metro La Tour-Maubourg
From 12 October 2016 to 29 January 2017
Every day from 10am to 5pm
€8,50 for the exhibition or €12 for the ticket and the museum visit