Home » Excellence in Exhibition Awards » DECLASSIFIED! Mission: DIA Continues

SIE built a custom triangular case to highlight the uniform of General Neal Sealock, who served as the Defense Attaché during a 2001 conflict between the U.S. and China. The case needed to accommodate additional small items and a small panel—no easy task when you also have to make sure all of the items are easily viewed and read by visitors. Custom cases were also embedded into the graphic panels for other objects.

DECLASSIFIED! Mission: DIA Continues

Remember that time SIE got to work on all that top-secret stuff (only without getting to learn any of the actual secret parts)? I mentioned that our work on the Defense Intelligence Agency Museum was going to be done in a number of phases. Previously, I wrote about Phases 1 and 2. Now, we’re able to talk about Phase 3. And I promise to continue with the utmost honesty about this project that may or may not REDACTED REDACTEDs—similar to my previous REDACTEDREDACTED post.


Phase 3 was a big one, roughly four times the size of phase 2. The four sections—Supporting Operations, Bringing Them Home, Enabling Diplomacy, and Staying Ahead— explore critical aspects of the DIA’s mission. Each section uses specific examples to explain how complicated missions came together, although REDACTEDREDACTEDfrom those REDACTEDREDACTEDREDACTED. By highlighting specific stories,REDACTEDREDACTED we could show the breadth of the agency’s work without overwhelming visitors with a play-by-play of everything they’ve done since the 1960s.


Supporting Operations

Supporting Operations explores DIA’s role as the provider of military intelligence necessary for operations to occur. Specifically, the exhibit dives into operations during the 1991 Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and efforts in Afghanistan. REDACTEDREDACTEDREDACTED.

pixelated photo with the word "classified" stamped on it
What an amazing photo! It perfectly captures the moment.


Bringing Them Home

Bringing Them Home delves into DIA’s efforts to bring home prisoners of war, those missing in action, and those killed in action. The risk with stories like these is that they are almost too compelling—stories that are this emotional can run risk of being overly sensationalized.

Here, we needed to balance out the drama of the rescues with the often unseen work done by DIA. The intelligence and coordination needed to conduct a rescue mission is what makes those dramatic “made for the movies” moments possible. REDACTED REDACTEDREDACTED. Before someone can rescue an injured soldier, intelligence officers need to figure out where they are, how they can get in and out of the building, how they can assess options in real time, and many other things I’m probably not allowed to know about.  

museum display with two cases and several panels
The Bringing Them Home section includes objects, such as the ones shown in cases here, and graphics designed using photographs and primary documents. SIE developed, designed, built, and installed the exhibition.



Staying Ahead

On a lighter note, you should know that we felt the need, the need for speed. Yes, DIA was responsible for Top Gun. You’re welcome, America.

Staying Ahead focuses on the ways DIA uses technology and innovation. For example, the real-life Top Gun program was developed using intelligence DIA gathered by exploiting Soviet aircraft. One of the digital interactives in this section (created by IMG, a partner in this project who handled the audio-visual materials and digital interactives) allows visitors to explore a Soviet MiG aircraft … and another interactive lets visitors take a quiz that asks “what was in Top Gun and what was in real life?” Fun Fact: the DIA exploited MiGs at area 51, where REDACTED REDACTEDREDACTEDREDACTED. By learning about the strengths and weaknesses of Soviet aircraft, a new flight training program was set up for the U.S. Air Force (known as Red Flag) and the famed program for U.S. Navy (cue Highway to the Danger Zone).


The Staying Ahead section features a silkworm missile, a scud missile, and an aquatic mine that the DIA exploited as part of an intelligence strategy of staying at least one generation of technology ahead of adversaries. FUN FACT: if you are installing full size missiles, you pretty much have to design that entire section around where they physically fit in the building. The reader rail around the scud missile also serves as a barrier. Just because the missile has been deactivated doesn’t mean touching it is a good idea.


Enabling Diplomacy
SIE built a custom triangular case to display a uniform. The case needed to accommodate additional small items and small panels—no easy task when you also have to make sure all of the items are easily viewed and read by visitors. Custom cases were also embedded into the graphic panels for other objects.

The section Enabling Diplomacy tells an often overlooked part of military history—using diplomacy to prevent conflict. Truly, what better way to protect the war fighter than to keep them out of harm’s way in the first place. I was really hoping for some REDACTEDREDACTED.REDACTEDREDACTEDREDACTED or REDACTED. In this section, we looked at treaties, negotiations, and internationalREDACTEDREDACTEDcooperation.

But wait! There’s more! Well… admittedly, that wait is going to take a bit. Phase 4 of Mission: DIA is built and ready to go, but not yet installed. Our install date is classified. (Okay, like everything else, the install date was moved because of the Covid-19 situation, but it sounds so much cooler REDACTEDREDACTEDREDACTED to say it’s classified.)