Exhibit Spotlight: Reel to Real

Exhibits of the National Law Enforcement Museum: Reel to Real

In past issues of the National Law Enforcement Museum Insider, we shared brief overviews of the Museum’s permanent exhibits. Now, we examine some stories and artifacts each exhibit will highlight.

Fact: Some of America’s all-time most popular movies and radio/TV shows involve law enforcement and policing.
In Reel to Real visitors will be able to vote for their favorite law enforcement characters from TV and film
Fiction: Actors portraying law enforcement are exactly like their real-life officer counterparts.
Fact: The Museum’s Reel to Real exhibit will cover America’s favorite pop culture topics and highlight the differences between cop characters played by actors and the real officers serving every day.

Yes, it is true that there have been countless radio/TV shows and movies over the years featuring law enforcement. Some have even spawned everything from action figures to board/video games to lunch boxes and Halloween costumes.

  Click on photo to enlarge.
TV Costume: Sweatshirt worn by Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland) on 24. 2008.63.1. Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, Washington, DC

In the National Law Enforcement Museum’s Reel to Real exhibit, visitors will experience many of the cop dramas, thrillers, westerns, comedies, and the characters that have entertained audiences for decades, some that have become firmly ingrained in our cultural consciousness.  [Does this line ring a bell? “…You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” (Dirty Harry, 1971)].

Through TV and movie clips, trivia, and myriad pop culture objects related to law enforcement, Reel to Real will be a fun environment that also dispels many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the law enforcement profession.  In the Cop Critique Theater, real officers will show visitors how their “reel” counterparts may not be as true to life as we think.

At the National Law Enforcement Museum’s annual Gala on October 12 in Washington, DC, we look forward to providing a glimpse of Reel to Real, including exhibiting some fun objects that will be in the Museum when it opens!

Take a peek at some pop culture artifacts from the Museum’s collection:

Click on artifacts.


901 E Street, NW, Suite 100 | Washington, DC 20004-2025 | phone 202.737.3400 | fax 202.737.3405
www.LawEnforcementMuseum.org | museum@nleomf.org