Celebrating 20 Years of U.S.-Slovenian Collaboration on Humanitarian Demining Efforts
Celebrating 20 Years of U.S.-Slovenian Collaboration on Humanitarian Demining Efforts 150 150

On September 28th, the Embassy of Slovenia and the Diplomacy Center celebrated 20 years of American support for the Slovenian government-led nonprofit organization ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF). ITF is dedicated to reducing threats from landmines and other explosive remnants of war and to facilitating safety and long-term development in conflict-affected communities.

President Borut Pahor of Slovenia, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Elisabeth Millard gave remarks followed by a reception. The event was accompanied by a photo exhibit of ITF’s work around the world displayed in the Diplomacy Center from September 24 through October 1.

ITF was formed in 1998 to help Bosnia and Herzegovina implement the Dayton Peace Agreement.  Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Slovenian Foreign Minister Boris Frlec agreed to its establishment as a key component of the peace settlement, placing the war torn region on the road to recovery by clearing landmines and assisting landmine survivors in the wake of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

With the early support of the United States, ITF has grown over the past 20 years to operate in 31 countries around the world, clearing of more than 139 million square meters of mine-affected land, protecting civilians in fragile and recovering states, and opening a path to stability and prosperity.

ImpactHack 2018
ImpactHack 2018 150 150

Visualizing Diplomacy, Development, and the Environment

On September 21 and 22, 2018, the United States Diplomacy Center and World Resources Institute partnered to host ImpactHack, a data visualization hackathon in Washington D.C. Sixteen teams competed to demonstrate diplomacy’s impact, from local state economies to global issues, using their coding and design skills. Amazon Web Services was the Title Sponsor and generously donated their time, technology, and expertise to managing the hackathon. Promising projects from this hackathon will be used to develop Diplomacy Center exhibit prototypes.

Four winners stand after award

Taylor Funk, Brianna McGowan, Chaudhry Talha and Alex Cohen stand with Diplomacy Center host Kelsey Cvach after winning first place for their project My State, My State Department. “I would love to be involved in future citizen diplomacy. I always wanted to be a diplomat and even wanted to join the foreign service,” said Alex Cohen.

My State, My State Department

The winning project, My State, My State Department, was created by Alex Cohen, Taylor Funk, Brianna McGowan, and Chaudhry Talha. The team created an interactive map and game that connects the work of American diplomacy with its impact on local communities across the U.S. The team used a United States map to allow users to explore the benefits of real diplomatic negotiations to regional U.S. interests, and to test their own skills in diplomacy. The project even allowed users to tweet their results.

McGowen describes, “After about two hours of brainstorming, my team knew we wanted to gamify state by state diplomacy and make it fun to interact with, learning not only the significance of diplomacy, but also increasing knowledge on the importance of the State Department and the impressive work they do.”

The My State, My State Department team is all the more remarkable because they had just met each other at the opening event. They are excited about the possibility that their project could be used in the future Diplomacy Center museum.

Data Ambassadors
Map with Embassies appearing over time

An interactive timeline of diplomacy data visualization app that helps visitors to understand American diplomacy and history events through time. User may scroll the interactive globe around and click the embassy for more information. User may also press a play button to animate the embassy establishment and closure chronologically. The app also highlights major history events in the animation.

The second place project, Data Ambassadors, demonstrated America’s diplomatic growth over time through an interactive map. The map included the context of historical events and a clickable timeline spanning the birth of the United States to current day. This team, consisting of Aaron Corso, Jeff Hale, Jessica Martin, and Chia-Hua Peng, also met at the opening event. Jessica plans to work with the Diplomacy Center to continue building out the project. She reports: “I am working on polishing it and adding final features. This isn’t something that has been done before.”

Another teammate, Aaron Corso, notes “Tech and data visualizations in particular, democratize diplomacy. Living in the DC area makes you more acutely aware of the activities of diplomats, but for someone living in the midwest, they may not have the constant exposure or awareness. The projects at this hackathon showed great promise in how we can raise awareness of how American diplomacy affects everyone by putting you in the driver’s seat.”

Global Movement

The third place project, Global Movement, addressed the factors that may relate to refugee rates, including a country’s relative freedom. This high school team, including Kashyap Murali, Aditya Patil, Krishnan Ram, and Jinal Shah, had driven down from New Jersey to participate in the hackathon after winning a travel sponsorship for their diplomatic relationship simulator in another hackathon in May. Several intend to apply for internships at the State Department in the future.

Special Prize: Most likely to be Published

Alice Feng won the special category award, “Most likely to be Published” with her project. She used data and graphics to tell an immersive story of the Paris Agreement, which was a landmark in terms of how many countries signed on in a short time. She used data visualizations show how the rapid adoption of the Paris Agreement stands out relative to other agreements, and then moved on to explore what impact this agreement will have, if any, on trying to stop the forces of climate change.

“I feel technology can play an important role in American diplomacy, whether by using it to educate citizens about our diplomatic efforts or as a way for us to learn more about and build stronger relationships with other cultures. I hope to participate in more opportunities to use data visualization to tell stories about the impact of international collaboration,” Alice Feng said.

Women present their project at ImpactHack

About ImpactHack

ImpactHack took place over the course of forty hours in two locations. The kickoff launched at the Diplomacy Center with remarks from Mary Kane, the Diplomacy Center’s director, Janet Ranganathan, World Resources Institute’s VP of Climate and Research, and Mark Smith of the hackathon’s Title Sponsor, Amazon Web Services. Participants met mentors, formed groups and began projects. After a full day of guided designing, coding, and testing at World Resources Institute, groups presented their projects. While judges made final decision, Joe Dooley, policy manager at Google, spoke about the importance of open data and higher education in STEM. The $3,000 in prizes were announced and projects published for continued development.

The United States Diplomacy Center will be the first museum and education center to tell the story of the history, practice, and challenges of American diplomacy. Through exhibitions and programs, the Center will inspire the American public to discover diplomacy and how it impacts their lives every day.

The World Resources Institute is a global research organization that spans more than 60 countries. Their more than 700 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain Earth’s natural resources—the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being.

Subscribe to learn about our upcoming programs or check out our other past events.

Honoring the Victims of September 11, 2001
Honoring the Victims of September 11, 2001 150 150

On September 10, Secretary Pompeo visited the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s September 11 exhibit remembering the lives that were taken during the terrorist attacks and the survivors and first responders with lasting injuries or health complications. The exhibit features displays of condolence material from its collection that represents the outpouring of support felt worldwide after the attacks. The anniversary of September 11, 2001, also honors the heroes who rushed into the darkness to save lives and commemorates the contributions and duties of all public servants who keep America safe. The display is up through Friday, September 14, in the Diplomacy Center pavilion for internal staff and official visitors.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. embassies and consulates received condolence material such as flowers, candles, personal notes, drawings, and trinkets of all types to let U.S. citizens know that they were not alone in their pain. Many of these items were shipped to the Department of State in Washington, and now are included in the collections of the Diplomacy Center. This condolence material represents an unwavering support for Americans in their time of need and a global repudiation of terrorism.

Specific examples from the collection include:

  • Students at Norwood School, Johannesburg, South Africa, sent a spiral bound booklet of colorful drawings and encouraging notes to the U.S. consulate.
  • Firefighters from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service offered a helmet with heartfelt inscriptions to the U.S. consulate in Sydney, Australia.
  • Schoolchildren in Japan created extensive chains of origami swans as symbols of peace.
  • A U.S. embassy is a powerful symbol. The building and the dedicated people who work there represent American values and a commitment to the rule of law.
  • Embassies are often targets as terrorists unsuccessfully attempt to silence our calls for freedom or halt the work of our nation, as we saw 3 years earlier on August 7, 1998, in Kenya and Tanzania.
  • Embassies are also places to mourn where citizens worldwide gather there to show respect and solidarity with the American people in the face of tragedy, and play a part in national and international healing.
Global Issues
Global Issues 150 150

What do a fire helmet, a missile launcher, and a Carnival costume have to do with diplomacy?

Each of these items represents a global issue that shapes the practice of diplomacy today. U.S. diplomats serve our nation by securing peace, increasing prosperity, promoting democracy, and sustaining development efforts worldwide, benefiting Americans at home. In practice, their efforts take many forms, involve many people, and can be surprising.

This yellow fire helmet represents an important life-saving partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD). LACoFD’s Urban Search and Rescue Team serves with distinction as one of two departments in the U.S. trained and authorized to deploy with USAID disaster response teams to international crises. Notably, they assist with the search and rescue of survivors after powerful earthquakes, such as in Nepal in 2015 and Mexico in 2017. The team also provides training and equipment for local first responders. By providing emergency life-saving assistance, the United States helps these nations back to a path to recovery and stability.

This inert SA7 model of a Man Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) is an example of a type of conventional weapon removed under programs funded by the U.S. Department of State. These programs support foreign governments’ efforts to remove, secure, and/or destroy these weapons that threaten the health and security of their citizens. These efforts counter the illicit proliferation and use of MANPADS. In the hands of terrorists, criminals, or other non-state actors, MANPADS pose a serious threat to commercial and military aircraft around the world.

In 2017, U.S. Consulate General Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, invited dancer and Paralympian Amy Purdy to represent the U.S. as a cultural envoy during the annual Carnival celebrations. Amy is a double amputee who danced in the opening of the Paralympics, won a snowboarding bronze in 2014, was a runner up in Dancing with the Stars, and is a well-respected motivational speaker. She participated in the U.S. Consulate General Rio’s partnership with the samba school Unidos da Tijuca. Amy promoted the shared U.S.-Brazilian musical heritage and messages focused on disability rights and women’s empowerment. Amy’s rhinestone studded costume was the first-ever designed for a double-amputee athlete/dancer during Carnival.

The Department of State sends American arts professionals, known as cultural envoys, around the world to U.S. embassies and consulates to perform or run workshops in their areas of expertise — including dance, drama, visual art, poetry, literature, film, and more.

#AskACurator 150 150

Ever wonder what kind objects we use to tell the story of American diplomacy at the U.S. Diplomacy Center?

Don’t wonder, ask our curator! For the first time in our museum’s history, we’ll be answering your questions about our collection. Between 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM EDT on September 12, 2018, tweet us questions about the only museum collection dedicated to telling the story of American diplomacy. Our Directory Mary Kane, Associate Curator Kathryn Speckart, and Public Historian Dr. Alison Mann will be on hand to answer your questions. Initiated on Twitter in 2010, Ask a Curator Day is a worldwide Q&A that now has over 1,500 participating museums from 58 countries, is taking place. Tweet us at @DiplomacyCenter and use the #AskaCurator to participate! Or dive in right away!

Exhibit Testing
Exhibit Testing 150 150

On July 31, 2018, the United States Diplomacy Center made its second visit to the National Museum of American History’s Spark!Lab to test content for its future exhibits. Museum visitors viewed four historical and current stories of American diplomacy and were invited to participate in a word association exercise. Over 500 visitors walked through exhibit and almost 250 surveys were taken. Of note:

  • Over 95% of visitors indicated foreign initiatives of development, democracy, and security are very important to the United States’ domestic economy and security.
  • There was strong belief that promoting free speech in other countries is important to the United States interest.
  • A strong majority of participants saw diplomacy as “very important” to their home state. although  a handful did not see a connection between diplomacy and the prosperity of their  home states. Understood in conjunction with the other data, this indicates visitors feel American diplomacy is important to the nation has a whole but less so to economy of heir particular region.
  • Visitors had some knowledge of current events related to State Department, good understanding of Consular Affairs and the Department’s range of impact, but were confused in how it relates to military operations.

These strong emotional responses are a positive sign for the enthusiasm of our core themes and interest in American diplomacy and its impact. The exhibits that we tested are currently being developed in partnership with Smithsonian. The exhibit is scheduled to be installed in the United States Diplomacy Center Pavilion in late 2019.

See testing of Faces of Diplomacy exhibit.

Faces of Diplomacy Preview Exhibit
Faces of Diplomacy Preview Exhibit 150 150

From July 23rd through August 31st, the United States Diplomacy Center hosted a preview of the exhibit Faces of Diplomacy in the Pavilion at the 21st Street entrance of HST. Faces of Diplomacy features portraits and videos of diplomatic professionals working abroad and in Washington D.C. From Public Affairs Officers to Information Management Specialists, to Diplomatic Security Officers, their stories illustrate the wide range of skills and functions required in the conduct of American diplomacy.

Faces of Diplomacy features members of the Foreign Service and Civil Service, as well as locally engaged staff and many others who manage our diplomatic relations and advance our nation’s interests around the world.

Though they come from various regions, have various educational backgrounds, and have a wide variety of responsibilities, their diplomatic service to our nation that unites them in purpose. Each of them serves our nation by promoting peace and prosperity on behalf of all Americans.

The information provided for these diplomats reflects their position at the time of the creation of the portrait. It is the nature of a Foreign Service career to serve around the world on a rotating basis.

See our previous guest exhibit, Jazz Diplomacy.

This exhibition offers a preview of a planned permanent exhibition for the U.S. Diplomacy Center. Faces of Diplomacy was created in collaboration with students and faculty from The George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design and the Department of Defense’s Combat Camera. Faces of Diplomacy was made possible through a generous grant from the Annenberg Foundation to the Diplomacy Center Foundation, the Diplomacy Center’s private 501(c)(3) partner.

Learn about testing this exhibit last year at the National American History Museum.

Meet the Director
Meet the Director 150 150
Portrait of Mary Kane in front of the United States Diplomacy Center banner

Mary Kane, Director of the United States Diplomacy Center, served previously as President and CEO of Sister Cities International.

Mary D. Kane became Director of the Center on April 2.  She brings a wealth of public and private sector experience to the project, having served as President and CEO of Sister Cities International, a citizen diplomacy network created by President Eisenhower 61 years ago to promote international peace, understanding, and cooperation.  It has over 500 city, county, or state members that have entered into partnerships with their counterparts across the globe.  Mary has also been Executive Director at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Secretary of State for Maryland where she led the Governor’s Subcabinet on International Affairs.  She was instrumental in establishing the Maryland “Safe at Home” program for victims of domestic violence.

She has served on the Board of Trustees of Johns Hopkins Medicine at Suburban Hospital and as a member of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Public-Private Partnerships.  In 2016, she was named one of the top 25 “Women Who Mean Business” in the Washington, DC, region.

She received her law degree from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and earned her B.S. in Business and Finance from Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, where she is now the first woman Chair of the Board of Trustees.  She and her husband have three grown children.

Understanding Diplomacy through Data
Understanding Diplomacy through Data 150 150

In May, over one hundred students competed in the student-led hackathon, MakeSPP, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Samay Shamdasani, along with his co-organizers, Shashwat Punjani, Nathan Blumenfeld, Jonas Eaton, Thomas Narramore, Dan Ambrosio, Owen Kealey, and Tyler Greene organized the hackathon. Hackathons are collaborative, competitive events where computer programmers are provided raw data or project prompts from a variety of topics that they turn into usable prototypes in a limited amount of time. At the end of the event, judges determine a winning project based on technological and creative achievement. At MakeSPP, the United States Diplomacy Center submitted topics for the competitors that focused on the growth of American diplomatic relations. Five student groups selected the Diplomacy Center for their data visualization projects, with incredible results. In eight short hours, students applied their coding skills to State Department data to produce ventures ranging from creative analysis to Virtual Reality projects. Kelsey Cvach of the Diplomacy Center served as judge and selected three winners.

The first winner was Jeffrey Yu, who built a functional interactive that traced the exchange of diplomats over time. For the prototype, he focused on 1817, the first year the data was available, 1940, as World War II was beginning, and 2006, a year in modern time. Says Yu, “As someone just starting to learn about data visualization, I hope to continue developing programs that will help the world understand important data representing foreign affairs and become a citizen diplomat myself.”

The next winning team used the same exchange of data and applied the project not only to the United States diplomatic relationships but included the relationships other countries have with each other around the world. The team, consisting of Kashyap Murali, Jinal Shah, Aditya Patil, and Krishnan Ram, described their experience: “We were excited after reading the prompt, but we grew more passionate about the project after exploring the numerous opportunities for insights provided by the data. Both the people and the government can use these insights to better communicate and understand their diplomatic landscape.”

The final winning team, led by Abhinav Dusi, built a prototype of an interactive map that attempted to demonstrate the growth of U.S. missions since the United States founding. They used the State Department website to pinpoint and compile establishment of diplomatic relationship dates and produced a timeline interactive map which showed U.S. embassies appearing worldwide over time. They went above and beyond the project prompt, incorporating photos of embassies and descriptions from the State Department website.

The remarkable response demonstrates a passion and excitement from tech-inclined students to apply their talents to diplomacy and international insight. The United States Diplomacy Center has invited these distinguished students to participate in its first-ever hackathon, which will take place at the Diplomacy Center Pavilion and World Resources Institute offices September 21st and 22nd. Interested participants should register through ImpactHack.devpost.com. Those interesting in volunteering or sponsoring the Diplomacy Center’s hackathon should contact Kelsey Cvach directly at cvachkl@america.gov.

Citizen Diplomacy Challenge Photo Contest
Citizen Diplomacy Challenge Photo Contest 150 150

The United States Diplomacy Center is pleased to host an exhibit featuring the finalists of the 2017-2018 Citizen Diplomacy Challenge Photo Contest run by the Office of Alumni Affairs in the Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  Twenty top photos, submitted by Americans who took part in international exchange programs sponsored by the Department, will be on display May 21 to 24, 2018.  The photos showcase the value and impact of these people-to-people exchange programs. Each image tells a story about what it means to be a citizen diplomat, and how international exchanges touch lives and communities.

The Citizen Diplomacy Challenge was launched in 2015 as an opportunity for the network of more than 350,000 American citizen alumni to share their exchange impact stories and promote international awareness in their communities.  The grand prize winner Ian Knight will be in Washington, DC to tour the exhibition and participate in events that promote citizen diplomacy. On Thursday, May 24, Jennifer Zimdahl Galt, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, will honor Ian and meet exchange alumni who are now working at the State Department.