It’s No Secret That Espionage Is This Collector’s Passion | Modern Society of USA

It’s No Secret That Espionage Is This Collector’s Passion

It’s No Secret That Espionage Is This Collector’s Passion

BOCA RATON, Fla. — “There are probably more spies in America now than at any other point in our history,” said H. Keith Melton, a longtime historical adviser to the C.I.A. who has spent the past few decades obsessively researching international espionage while amassing a sprawling collection of spyware from all sides, predating and spanning the Cold War. “I preserve and protect; I don’t look at things politically.”

[Read about the new K.G.B. Spy Museum in Manhattan.]

To that end, he’s donating the bulk of his collection — more than 7,000 items — to the International Spy Museum in Washington, where he’s on the board. Devices heading to its new 140,000-square-foot headquarters include a Nazi Enigma code machine abandoned in France by a German unit fleeing advancing American soldiers, one of whom took it home after the war; a 13-foot-long British “Sleeping Beauty” submarine that allowed a single sailor to slip undetected into an enemy harbor; and a British-built World War II-era cigarette that fires a .22-caliber bullet.

Even as thousands of pieces are being donated, however, undercover gear and espionage ephemera fill the guesthouse adjoining the Boca Raton home where Mr. Melton and his wife, Karen, live, making it a de facto private spy museum. “I’m not sure I’d want to sleep under the same roof as some of this stuff,” Mrs. Melton said, eyeing a particularly ominous bust of Stalin.

Aside from being a prolific author on the clandestine world, Mr. Melton was a technical adviser for the recent 1980s-set TV drama “The Americans,” lending the show Soviet-era hidden cameras and eavesdropping devices. He said veteran agents from the K.G.B. and its successor, the S.V.R., loved the series: “They thought it made them look really good.”

MR. MELTON I always take the historical approach while traveling the world to visit intelligence services, knocking on their door and handing them one of my books. I did that in East Germany as it was collapsing in 1990. I did the same thing in Moscow in the spring of 1992.

And if that doesn’t work?

MR. MELTON Cash is good [chuckling]. When society is disassembling and in chaos, cash brings a lot of things to the surface.

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