News & Politics

Best of 2004: Patrick Gallagher

He designs museum spaces that invite visitors to look AND touch.

Look-but-don't-touch museums are anathema to Patrick Gallagher. He designs spaces that invite visitors to experience exhibits rather than observe them from behind a rope. "It's all about the story," he says. "We are three-dimensional storytellers."

When Gallagher was hired to create the exhibits and spaces in DC's International Spy Museum (800 F St., NW; 202-393-7798;, skeptics doubted people would come–let alone pay. Two years later, nearly 1H million have crawled through air shafts, tried to outwit surveillance cameras, and scrutinized tools of the spy trade.

Gallagher's Bethesda company is designing the new Oceans Hall in the National Museum of Natural History. Visitors can expect to get up close and personal with the deep. "The more we can heighten the experience," he says, "the more they learn."

Washingtonian staff contributing to this section were Chuck Conconi, Sherri Dalphonse, Susan Davidson, Mary Clare Fleury, Cynthia Hacinli, Thomas Head, Stephanie Jones, Ann Limpert, Drew Lindsay, Chad Lorenz, Leslie Milk, William O'Sullivan, Cindy Rich, and Jeremy Stahl.  Also contributing were writers Cathy Alter, Ann Cochran, and Jenny Sullivan.