Archived Pages from 20th Century!!

Welcome to the CIA Exhibit Center.


Sign from CIA's first headquarters building (1947)

Housed in the Agency's Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia, this unique collection illustrates the history of US intelligence--which effectively began when this country was still 13 separate colonies--by showing some of the artifacts and tools used by men and women serving in various aspects of American espionage. Cases representing important periods such as the Civil War and the Cold War depict the role intelligence gathering and dissemination have played throughout this nation's existence. Of special interest is the relationship between the World War II-era Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the present-day Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Personal effects reflecting the career of Maj. Gen. William J. Donovan, as well as numerous examples of OSS tradecraft (much of which was used by CIA after it was established by President Truman in 1947) underscore the historical and philosophical link joining the two organizations. So strong is this connection that General Donovan is considered Father of CIA despite the fact he never actually served as the Agency's director.

The seal you clicked on to reach this virtual tour is a photograph of the original sign from the CIA's first building on E Street in Washington, DC. All items exhibited in the Center are authentic; no reproductions are permitted. Most were given to the Center by the office or individual who designed or used them. Every artifact and photograph has been declassified by the appropriate officials for open viewing. Please note that because the Exhibit Center is located on the CIA compound, it is not open to the public for tours.

We hope you enjoy this look at the history of American intelligence as told through some of the artifacts used to make that history. Please click on the seal again to begin the tour.