Artifact Collection Highlights

The Diplomacy Center’s artifact collection is unique to the nation. Nowhere else does a museum collection exist that is solely dedicated to our nation’s diplomatic history. Artifacts are powerful storytelling tools which will shed light on the work and history of our nation’s diplomats that may otherwise go unnoticed by the general public. At over 7,500 items, the collection reflects a wide range of people, places, and issues that make up our nation’s rich diplomatic history. Collecting efforts are ongoing as we build a world-class collection.

Diplomacy Center exhibit cases of Nuclear Arms including flags, artifacts, and information
Spotlight On: Nuclear Risk Reduction
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In October 2018, the United States Diplomacy Center hosted a spotlight on the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center. These included several of our artifacts, including:

  • Cruise missile wing tip mounted to plaque Gift from the INF Delegation

This wing tip was once part of a ground launched cruise missile which was eliminated at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in 1989. The elimination was carried out under the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987. This commemorative piece was owned and displayed by Ambassador Maynard W. Glitman, chief negotiator of the INF treaty.

  • Pershing II missile instrumentation backplate mounted to plaque Gift from the INF Delegation

This instrumentation backplate was once part of a Pershing II – a mobile, intermediate-range ballistic missile – which was eliminated at the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant, Texas, in 1989. All Pershing IIs and their support equipment were eliminated per the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987. This commemorative piece was owned and displayed by Ambassador Maynard W. Glitman, chief negotiator of the INF treaty.

  • SCUD Missile nose cone Gift of Ambassador Kurt D. Volker

The Soviet Union deployed SCUD missiles and launchers to Soviet-bloc countries as part of the military build-up in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The warheads were kept in the Soviet Union and could be paired quickly with the missiles and launchers in the event of conflict. This nose cone was mounted to the very top of a SCUD missile and did not contain a weapon. Its purpose was to increase the aerodynamics of the missile aimed at its target.

In 1991, the Soviet Union withdrew their troops from Hungary, but left the SCUD missiles behind. The United States assisted with the destruction of this equipment. Kurt Volker, Political-Military Officer at U.S. Embassy Budapest 1994-1997, was the liaison for this program. He was given this nose cone as a memento.

Sports Diplomacy
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What do sports have to do with diplomacy?

People are at the heart of diplomacy. The U.S. Department of State engages youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and rising leaders around the world and the United States through many types of exchange programs, striving to reflect the diversity of the U.S. and the global society. Sports exchanges have long proven to be a popular venue to bring people of all backgrounds together, oftentimes paving the way for further discussion and collaboration.

Ping pong diplomacy:

Zhuang Zedong, the Chinese ping pong player whose chance interaction with an American player helped lead to the “ping pong diplomacy” of the 1970s, presented this inscribed paddle to former Secretary Kissinger in 2007.

Baseball base:

This base was in play during innings 4 through 6 of the March 22, 2016, exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team at Estadio Latinoame, Havana, Cuba. U.S. President Barack Obama and his family and Cuban President Raoul Castro attended the game. The game occurred during Obama’s historic visit to Cuba after the two countries re-established official diplomatic relations in 2015.

Gift Exchange
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What type of gifts do Secretaries of State receive?

Secretaries of State receive wide variety gifts from many foreign officials and private citizens around the world. Gift giving is an age-old diplomatic tradition and is a common ceremonial aspect of diplomatic visits. Oftentimes, the gift reflects the tastes and personality of the giver. The gift may also reflect the culture and natural resources of the giver’s country of origin. There are laws setting limits on the gifts that government officials are allowed to personally keep. The Diplomacy Center has a selection of gifts to Secretaries of State in its collection. A few examples include:

 

Personalized tea set:

In the late 1990s, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright played a key role in managing the U.S. response, through NATO, to the hostilities that broke out in the Kosovo/Serbia region.  One of the tools she utilized was what she called “conference call diplomacy” where she participated in a daily conference call with her foreign minister counterparts to share information and plan strategy during this war.  The core participants were Foreign Ministers Robin Cook (UK), Hubert Vedrine (France), Joschka Fischer (Germany), and Lamberto Dini (Italy).  Additionally, regular communications included Foreign Ministers Igor Ivanov (Russia) and Lloyd Axworthy (Canada).  Their constant communication not only resulted in a strong NATO response to the tragedy unfolding in the region, but also a strong friendship based on trust and a common understanding of the partnership.

 

These foreign ministers gathered at a dinner in Paris in January 2001 to honor Secretary Albright as she finished her tenure as Secretary of State.  Igor Ivanov presented Secretary Albright with a spectacular blue and white Russian porcelain tea set.  The 7 cups in the set feature the images of the faces of Secretary Albright and these six foreign minister counterparts [Igor Ivanov (Russia), Robin Cook (UK), Hubert Vedrine (France), Joschka Fischer (Germany), Lloyd Axworthy (Canada), and Lamberto Dini (Italy)].  The set’s round tray is inscribed “Madeleine and Her Dream Team” in gold lettering.

 

Vodka bottle:

This bottle of vodka in the shape of an AK-47 assault rifle was a lighthearted gift from Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to Secretary Colin Powell on the occasion of his 65th birthday in 2002. Also known as a Kalashnikov rifle, it was originally designed in the 1940’s for the Soviet military. Colin Powell has recounted on a few occasions, with some humor, that he was dismayed when Protocol officials deemed this gift to be “over value” and he was not allowed to consume its contents.

 

Qadhafi gifts:

This locket and diamond ring were gifts to Secretary Condoleezza Rice from Muammar Qadhafi in 2008. She was the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Libya in over 50 years and was the most senior U.S. official to ever meet with Colonel Qadhafi. The locket has Qadhafi’s image engraved on the inside. It was well known that he had a “crush” on Secretary Rice. He lavished her with praise during her visit. About the historic visit, Secretary Rice said: “This demonstrates that the United States does not have permanent enemies. It demonstrates that if countries are prepared to make strategic changes in direction, the United States is prepared to respond.”

Global Issues
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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.

Remembrance, Reflection, Resilience
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Remembrance, Reflection, Resilience

Twenty years ago on a summer morning, two U.S. embassies in Africa fell victim to coordinated and nearly simultaneous truck bombs – later linked to the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. Fifty-six U.S. government employees, contractors, and family members were killed. From the ashes, countless survivors pulled together and rebuilt strengthened and resilient communities.

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the attacks, the U.S. Diplomacy Center, working in collaboration with Ambassador Prudence Bushnell and Ambassador John Lange, hosted an event where survivors related their personal stories, acts of courage, and opportunities for leadership. Held in the Burns Auditorium at the Department of State, panelists included both ambassadors and 4 embassy employees who experienced the attacks firsthand in 1998 (2 from each embassy). They shared how they served their communities in the face of the ultimate tragedy. The discussion was moderated by Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, President of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA). In conjunction with the commemoration, AFSA published personal accounts from several survivors from each embassy in their July/August 2018 edition of the Foreign Service Journal.

In opening remarks, Mrs. Susan Pompeo expressed the support of her husband – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. USAID Administrator Mark Green (who was U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania from 2007-2009) expressed the strength of the relationships we have today between the U.S. and Kenya and Tanzania. And Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy reiterated the themes of remembrance, reflection, and resilience as the countries look ahead to continuing the partnerships and bonds that have been strengthened despite the attacks.


On September 23rd, 2018, C-SPAN aired a segment on the Diplomacy Center’s East Africa Bombings exhibit, complemented with interviews with Ambassadors Bushnell and Lange.