Are you ready to be a Super Spy?

Find out what life really was like for real-life spies in this new spy exhibition at The Workshops Rail Museum
12 Nov 2021
Discover Ipswich, Staff Writer

If you’ve ever wondered what’s involved in being a spy, then a new exhibition will give you a good idea, and is a perfect family day out.

Over the last 100 years, spies were put to work across the country, and it is their set of skills that you too can engage in, with the new exhibition Spy Espionage in Australia now on in Ipswich.

On at the Workshops Rail Museum in North Ipswich, this strips away the fantasy world of James Bond and shows you what life really was like for real-life spies in this exhibit, which is on a national tour in association with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Spy Espionage has opened at The Workshops Rail Museum

Often cloaked in myth, the stories of spies are sometimes stranger than fiction.  Spy Espionage in Australia reveals the personal experiences of secret agents and the curious history of espionage and counter-espionage in Australia, from Federation through to the present day.  

In the exhibition you will see real items used by spies over the years, including deciphering machines, hidden cameras, and micro recorders of the day. Find out about the equipment used, see surveillance images and read about candid interviews with ASIO officers.

Spy Espionage at The Workhops Rail Museum

Children will have fun too, as they play the part of a secret agent in the interactive family trail. Test your skills at codebreaking and read the invisible ink (if you can find it) using your UV light skills!

Using objects from the National Archives of Australia, ASIO and other security organisations, this brings the stories of spies out of the shadows and into the light. 


At the height of the Cold War, Australia was on the lookout for communists, and many of the exhibits highlight the surveillance from that time.

Along the way you can see actual recorders, cameras and deciphering machines from that era, just like the ones you may have seen in many a spy movie, only these ones are real!

Some of the items on display are absolutely fascinating, as you can imagine spies using them in their heyday. 

Skripov Miss A taronga zoo

There is of course, another Ipswich connection to the exhibition, with a man called Cotton, Sidney Cotton.

Mr Cotton’s headstone at Tallegalla tells of a man who loved three wives, and remembers him as a pioneer aviator, inventor and spy. During WWII Mr Cotton worked for MI6, and was known as a bit of a ladies’ man, a pilot and someone with a keen eye for business. It was in 1939 that Cotton met a man who worked for British Naval Intelligence. That man was Ian Fleming, who after the war in the early 1950s went on to write the James Bond novels. The rest is history.

Many people believe that Cotton, and his love for gadgets, inspired Fleming’s creation of ‘Q’, whose inventions got James Bond out of a pickle more times than you can say “Pay attention 007”.

Spy Espionage

It all adds up to an exhibition that parents will enjoy, with many interesting stories told using interactive screens, displays and video.  Kids will be given their very own Spy Kit, to explore, learn and enjoy everything the exhibition has to offer.

Best of all, Spy Espionage in Australia is included in your entry to the museum. Visitors are encouraged to make a day of it!

This is a national touring exhibition developed and presented by the National Archives of Australia.  For more information visit The Workshops Rail Museum online.

The exhibition is on now until February 6th 2022.

Spy Espionage
Discover Ipswich Staff Writer
Rocky the Rock Wallaby is a Sagittarius who lives at the Ipswich Nature Centre and often contributes to Discover Ipswich in his spare time. When he's not busy showing tourists around, blogging or hanging out with his cute and fluffy mates at the Nature Centre, he likes to hit the gym for a leg session, graze on quinoa salad and ponder the possibilities of the universe.

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