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 8,500 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.

Items from the Secretary's office donated to National museum of american diplomacy
Madam Secretary Artifacts in the United States Diplomacy Center Collection
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Madam Secretary Artifacts in the United States Diplomacy Center Collection

In 2019, the United States Diplomacy Center was pleased to receive a donation of set and prop items from the beloved CBS television show Madam Secretary. CBS Television Studios, Revelations Entertainment, and the show’s creators Barbara Hall, Lori McCreary, and Morgan Freeman made this generous gift possible.

The donation includes iconic pieces from the title character Elizabeth McCord’s State Department office, including her desk, globe, costumes, and other props. These items will become a part of the museum’s permanent collection and will be showcased in an upcoming exhibit. The items from the show will become a valuable entry point to our museum for visitors who have only understood the work of American diplomacy through the television show.

Diplomacy Center Director Mary Kane notes, “Madam Secretary has brought to life the important and tireless work of dedicated American diplomats who represent our nation around the world and in Washington, DC. We are honored to recognize this successful show by including artifacts from the production as part of our permanent collection. We are grateful to CBS Television Studios and Revelations Entertainment for this generous donation. These items will become a focal point of our popular culture exhibit, giving us a compelling and dynamic way to engage our audience who may have been introduced to the work and language of diplomacy through this television show.”

White empty new storage facility with racks
New collection storage facility completed
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The Diplomacy Center’s collection has a new home following completion of a custom designed 2,00  square foot museum storage space. This new space represents a significant upgrade in storage capacity, access, and preservation capabilities for the Center’s unique 8,500+ item collection —  and the only museum collection in the nation focused on preserving our diplomatic history.

Outfitted with specialized museum storage shelves and cabinets, the space provides roughly double the storage capacity that was available in the Center’s former facility. A fifty foot long compact storage system is a central component, which helps save floor space by placing shelves and cabinets on mobile carriages with aisles that can be opened or closed at the touch of a button.

The space also features independent climate control system, providing a stable temperature and relative humidity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A stable climate helps ensure the best possible conditions for long-term preservation of the priceless history the Center is entrusted with caring for and sharing with the public. 

The project to deliver this space unfolded over an approximately two year period and involved coordination between the State Department’s administration bureau, construction crews, diplomatic security, and the Center’s collections manager.

With the space completed, the Center’s curatorial staff is now moving the collection from its temporary location into its new home. The specialized features and increased capacity of this space will enable the Diplomacy Center to preserve, grow, and share its unique collection with the public — now and in the future. 

Chronicle of Freedom
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Original image of old newspaperThis original August 3, 1789 issue of The Independent Gazetteer or the Chronicle of Freedom provides notice of and complete text of the July 27, 1789 act establishing the Department of Foreign Affairs. This legislation enacted what is the core law for the Department of State today. The original Department of Foreign Affairs (with the name changed to Department of State the same year) originally had a staff of 5 people under the first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who had just finished serving as United States minister to France. The original State Department was located in a building on Broadway in New York, before being moved to Philadelphia in 1790 and later to Washington DC. When President Washington appointed the first 17 US consular officers, the officials were Americans who happened to be engaged in trade in particular cities with no salaries provided by the government. The Gazetteer was published in Philadelphia from 1782-1790.

A diplomatic crisis
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old spectacles on minimalistic background

Fake eyeglasses
Issued to Kathleen Stafford as part of her disguise to escape Tehran 1980

The Iran Hostage crisis ranks as one of the most traumatic diplomatic crises in U.S. history. In the wake of a successful revolution by Islamic fundamentalists against the pro-American Shah of Iran, the United States became an object of virulent criticism and the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was a visible target. On November 4, 1979, Iranian students seized the embassy and detained more than 50 Americans staff as hostages. The Iranians held the American diplomats hostage for 444 days.

A few Americans inside the embassy compound managed to escape. Kathleen Stafford was a Foreign Service spouse working as a visa clerk in the consulate within the U.S embassy in Tehran at the time of the takeover. She, along with her husband Joseph Stafford, Robert Anders, Cora Amburn-Lijek, Mark Lijek and Lee Schatz, managed to escape the initial breach of the embassy through a consulate back door that led to an unoccupied alleyway. The escapees divided into two groups to avoid attention. Stafford and her group evaded capture by moving from vacant house to vacant house for a few days before finding more lasting refuge at the homes of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and Consul General John Sheardown, who welcomed them despite great personal risk.

The group of six would remain guests of the Canadian diplomats for almost three months until a CIA extraction operation lead by Tony Mendez, and made famous by the movie “Argo,” allowed them to escape Iran on January 28, 1980 by posing as a film production team. The CIA agents gave Kathleen this pair of fake eyeglasses as part of her costume for the day of escape. Kathleen and the other “houseguests” had to memorize their cover stories, take on fake personas, and carry fake documentation that would allow them to surreptitiously pass through Revolutionary Guard security at the Tehran airport.

Edward Dudley Jr. and Diplomacy Center Associate Curator Katie Speckat discuss items in his father’s diplomatic collection.
Archival Collection of the First African American Ambassador Comes to the Diplomacy Center
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We think we opened the door and stopped this kind of discrimination.

Ambassador Edward R. Dudley

In 1949, Edward R. Dudley became the first African American to hold the rank of ambassador. Ambassador Dudley’s son, Edward Jr., has donated his father’s extensive archival collection from his time serving as the head of the U.S. mission to Liberia from 1948 to 1953 to the Diplomacy Center. The Diplomacy Center is truly honored to receive this generous gift. Increasing the diversity of diplomats represented in the Diplomacy Center’s holdings is a top curatorial priority. 

Before becoming an ambassador, Edward Dudley had a distinguished career as an attorney. Ambassador Dudley was a civil rights lawyer in the 1940s, appointed to the New York Attorney General’s Office and then was recruited by Thurgood Marshall to become a Special Assistant at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Subsequently, he became the Legal Counsel to the Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, moving there with his young family.

Diplomacy Center Deputy Director Jane Carpenter-Rock reviewing Ambassador Edward Dudley’s collection in New York.

Diplomacy Center Deputy Director Jane Carpenter-Rock reviewing Ambassador Edward Dudley’s collection in New York.

In 1948, President Harry Truman sent Dudley to Liberia as U.S. Envoy and Minister. Upon elevation of the Mission in Liberia to a full U.S. Embassy in 1949, Dudley was promoted to the rank of Ambassador. With that, Ambassador Dudley became the first black Ambassador in U.S. history. This also made him the highest ranking diplomat, often referred to as the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia.  

After departing Liberia in 1953 he continued to practice law and was later elected to the New York Supreme Court in 1965, serving on the high court until 1985.

During an oral history interview with the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training, Ambassador Dudley recounted what he considered his highest achievement in Liberia. During this time, African American Foreign Service officers were stuck in what was perjoratively called the “negro circuit.” Dudley describes their situation:

In Liberia “…the leading black foreign service officer there had never had the opportunity of serving anywhere else in the world, despite the fact that it was a policy of our State Department to rotate foreign service officers about every two years….”

“…Despite the fact that we had scores of black people — men and women — in both the Foreign Service Officer corps and in the other areas of government such as secretaries, clerks, other people, none had ever gotten outside of a little triumvirate there that we called Monrovia, Ponta Delgada and Madagascar — all black, hardship, disagreeable posts.” 

“This had been going on for year after year after year, after year…. I am reminded of one man by the name of Rupert Lloyd, a graduate of Williams College, who had been serving in the Foreign Service when I got there at Monrovia for almost ten years. Another fellow, William George, who had just moved over to one of the other hardship posts…. There had been one woman they told me who had been there for almost twenty-five years. She’d gone when I got there. Another one for seventeen years. So I decided to check into it and I got the staff to prepare some research on it, and I did some myself. We put together a memorandum which was a statement documenting every black in the Foreign Service over a long period of years: where they were; when they came into the service; how long they had been in; and, the fact that they had never been transferred. And next to that we added a class of white Foreign Service officers that we took from the register who came in at the same time as Rupert Lloyd came in and we showed where they had been. In every instance, they had had four, five, six transfers and had been in three, four and five different posts throughout the world, and very few hardship posts.”

“Well, right away you would know that there was something wrong…and I knew exactly what to do…. I asked for an audience with the Under Secretary of State…. it was his responsibility to correct what was not only an unwholesome situation but, in my judgment, an illegal situation since the Foreign Service Act had indicated that discrimination of this kind was not to be permitted.”

“….[W]ithin six months time, transfers came through and the number one Foreign Service officer was sent to Paris, France: Rupert Lloyd. And this is the first time that a black Foreign Service officer had ever served in Europe. A second Foreign Service officer, Hanson, was sent to Zurich, Switzerland, and a young lady of great talent was sent to Rome, Italy. They even cleared my code clerk — a fellow by the name of Mebane — out and he was sent to London, England, and they moved the people out so fast that the Liberians complained and said, ‘What’s happening?’” 

“In my judgment this was probably one of the more important things that I did the whole time I was there, not so much between the relations of Liberia and the United States, but for black Americans. We think we opened the door and stopped this kind of discrimination.”

The Diplomacy Center is proud to accept Ambassador’s Dudley’s collection and honor his powerful story.

Page of old scrapbook featuring family of four
A Legacy of Service
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As a young girl, Sylvia Blake set sail with her parents and brothers in 1930 to Guatemala when her father, Sheldon Whitehouse, was assigned there as the U.S. Envoy. Sheldon Whitehouse served as a Foreign Service Officer for nearly 30 years around the world, including London, Caracas, Paris, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Guatemala, and Colombia. He instilled a tradition of public service in his family for generations to come.

Sylvia, herself a child of the foreign service, married Foreign Service Officer Robert Blake. As a foreign service spouse, Sylvia served alongside her husband and supported his and the entire embassy’s efforts to promote U.S. national interests abroad. They lived in many countries, including Leopoldville (Kinshasa), Congo during a very tumultuous time. Robert later served as U.S. Ambassador to Mali (1971-1973).

Sylvia’s brother Charles Whitehouse joined the foreign service and served as U.S. Ambassador to Laos (1973-1975) and to Thailand (1975-1978). Prior to these assignments, he served as the deputy to Ellsworth Bunker, the American ambassador in Saigon.

Sylvia’s son Robert Jr. joined the foreign service and would go on to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Maldives and Sri Lanka (2006-2009), Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs (2009-2013), and U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia (2013-2016).

And Sylvia’s nephew Sheldon Whitehouse, son of Charles, is currently serving as a U.S. Senator for Rhode Island.

Sylvia’s mother kept detailed scrapbooks of their service abroad, a practice that Sylvia continued. Today, three generations of the Whitehouse/Blake family’s service to our nation are preserved in her collection of scrapbooks and photo albums. Earlier this year, Diplomacy Center curatorial staff had the opportunity to visit with Sylvia in her Washington, D.C. home and to digitally capture pages from these historic scrapbooks and albums.

The photographs and mementos vividly depict the personal and familial side of foreign service life, the vital function that the foreign service family plays, and the Whitehouse/Blake family’s dedication to representing the United States abroad. This collection of images captures a legacy of service and greatly supports the Diplomacy Center’s exhibition development and research efforts.

Sylvia has also graciously supported the Diplomacy Center Foundation’s capital campaign by making a $100,000 donation to the Founding Ambassador’s fund. 


Passport, Diplomacy Center, Rufus King
Piracy and Passports: How American merchants protected themselves from capture and enslavement
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May 13 marks the 218th anniversary of President Thomas Jefferson ordering U.S. naval vessels to stop Barbary interference with American trade in the Mediterranean. Jefferson’s decision to use force against the Barbary nations of Algiers and Tripoli (semi-autonomous Ottoman Empire states) came after 15 years of negotiations and the Americans’ refusal to continue paying monetary tribute as the price for trading unmolested.

Prior to the early 1780s, American merchants enjoyed trading wheat, flour, and pickled fish throughout the Mediterranean in return for wine and salt under the protection of the British navy. Once the colonies won their independence, they lost this protection and fell prey to Barbary pirates lying in wait at the mouth of the Strait of Gibraltar. These “pirates” — as the western world called them — were actually corsairs or privateers. Pirates are rogue actors not beholden to any nation and operate illegally, while corsairs are ship owners who work for and split their profits with the head of government. But to Americans, who believed firmly in free trade, the kidnapping of sailors and theft of ships was nothing less than piracy. Unfortunately, without a navy to protect private shipping, there was nothing American merchants could do except to try and negotiate treaties agreeing to pay enormous sums of money. U.S. diplomats accomplished such treaties with Tripoli, Algiers, and Tunis in 1796 and 1797. The diplomats agreed to pay ransom for 89 American sailors (some which had been held for 11 years) and a yearly tribute amounting to about 16 percent of the entire appropriated U.S. budget.

The years following these initial treaties were a tense period for American merchants and sailors, especially those who had been previously captured. If their ship fell into the hands of Barbary corsairs, they would need to prove their American identity, which a passport could provide. Before 1941, the United States did not require its citizens to carry a passport for travel except during wartime, making passports from the late 18th century/early 19th century extremely rare.

Rufus King, then American minister to Great Britain, issued this 1798 passport to David Hinckley, a wealthy Boston merchant who traveled frequently to London on business. It is the oldest in our extensive collection and also one of the more intriguing. Barbary corsairs had captured David Hinckley in the early 1790s, enslaving him into hard labor for two years until diplomats secured his freedom through ransom. In 1798, Hinckley ensured he had an official U.S. government passport on his person to prove he was an American citizen and protected under the 1796 and 1797 treaties.

Passports would not, however, provide protection if nations broke treaties. The United States government quickly fell behind on its payments and the Barbary States resumed piracy around 1800. But unlike the 1780s, the United States had built a navy and Thomas Jefferson was ready to use it in defense of American trade without tribute. The First and Second Barbary Wars (1801-1805 & 1815) concluded favorably for the United States and diplomats drew up new treaties declaring that none of the nations would show any “favor or privilege in navigation or commerce” to any particular country. And cautious traders, like David Hinckley, could now travel more safely in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, with or without passport in hand.

Crowd of soldiers walk by citizens in a black and white photo with Austrian Alps in background
Medal of Freedom
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The Consulate General had its windows and doors blown in or out several times, and all of us had narrow escapes, but no one was actually hit, a miracle in view of the thousands of flying and rocket bombs directed our way. We owe our lives to Divine intervention and to the efficiency of the 50th American Anti-Aircraft Brigade under the able command of Brigadier General Clare H. Armstrong.

James H. Keeley, quoted in Foreign Service Journal, September 1945

a bronze medal on a gray background

James H. Keeley, American Civilian, for exceptionally meritorious achievement which aided the United States in the prosecution of the war against the enemy in Continental Europe, as United States Consul-General, Antwerp, Belgium, from 7 November 1944 to 30 March 1945. He contributed greatly to the maintaining of security and the averting of panic among the civilian population of Antwerp. His successful efforts greatly aided the war effort and reflect high credit upon him. 29 Nov 1945

May 8th is celebrated in Europe and in the United States as Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day. On this day in 1945, the Allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, paving the way for the end of World War II.

During the war, the port of Antwerp, Belgium was crucial for logistical support for Allied forces. On October 12, 1944, Nazi forces commenced V-bomb attacks on both Antwerp and London. Known as Vergeltungswaffe (vengeance weapon), V-bombs were imprecise and killed almost exclusively civilians. By March 1945, more V-bombs had fallen on greater Antwerp than London.

The V-bomb attacks in Antwerp killed more than 3,400 civilians and 700 allied service personnel. In almost six months of terror, there were just 12 days when no bombs fell.

During this entire time, Foreign Service Officer James H. Keeley bravely served as Consul General at U.S. Consulate Antwerp. For his successful efforts during wartime, President Truman awarded him this Medal of Freedom in 1945. Keeley is credited as contributing “…greatly to the maintaining of security and the averting of panic among the civilian population of Antwerp.” Keeley also gave credit to the bravery and endurance of the local Belgian consulate staff who did not leave the post.

in a case, items from the NATO treaty and accession instruments
Commemorating 70 years of the North Atlantic Treaty
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In 1949, the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations created the North Atlantic Treaty, to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.  April 3, 2019 marked 70 years of a strategic military alliance among the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty. Secretary Mike Pompeo, with the 30 Foreign Ministers of the signatory countries, held an event with the original Treaty Charter, in the same space it was signed, in what used to be the Departmental Auditorium and is now the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.  This event marked the first time that Northern Macedonia participated, with its accession documents formally submitted to the United States Senate. During the reception, Secretary Pompeo noted the accomplishments of NATO and spoke about President Harry Truman’s aspirations for the alliance. Though there was doubt at the time that NATO would be a force of peace, Pompeo stated that “the 12 founding nations knew better and over the years, their historic hopes have been vindicated.  The ‘fuller and happier life for our citizens’ that Truman sought has been realized.”

Throughout the day on April 4, the United States Diplomacy Center displayed the accession instruments of the countries celebrating significant milestones since joining NATO. As the depository of NATO, Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty provides that “Any State so invited may become a Party to the Treaty by depositing its instrument of accession with the Government of the United States of America.”  This is the first time that these instruments have ever been displayed for viewing, and several Foreign Ministers were delighted to have the opportunity to see these historic documents.. The U.S. Diplomacy Center, as the State Department’s pending museum on diplomacy and with curatorial expertise, properly laid out and displayed the accession instruments in an archival manner.  U.S. Diplomacy Center staff also proudly served as informational docents for the original Treaty at the April 3 event, answering questions about the history of the Charter and NATO.

Photograph of Wolfgang J. Lehmann (far left) in Austria in the early 1950s, sitting with former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (far right) and fellow embassy staff member B.J. McGuigan (center) for a press conference.
Evacuation under pressure
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Wolfgang J. Lehmann served as a Foreign Service Officer from 1951 to 1983, experiencing significant events in diplomatic history during the cold war era. The Diplomacy Center recently collected several artifacts representing his distinguished career that spanned eight presidential administrations.

Lehmann’s Foreign Service assignments included: Political Officer U.S. Embassy Vienna; supervisor of the U.S. Refugee Relief Program; Public Affairs Advisor for European Affairs at the Department of State; Political Advisor to the U.S. European Command in Germany; Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Saigon; Consul General, Frankfurt, Germany; and Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence.

Examples from his collection include this engaging photograph of Lehmann (far left) in Austria in the early 1950s, sitting with former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (far right) and fellow embassy staff member B.J. McGuigan (center) for a press conference. In Saigon, he managed the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy under fire during the last days of the conflict in Vietnam. His day planner from 1975 records the 2 days of the evacuation, April 29th and 30th. A few days later, he received a copy of this telegram from President Gerald Ford, thanking the ambassador and his staff for the safe evacuation under tremendous pressure.

Telegram from President Gerald Ford, thanking the ambassador and his staff for the safe evacuation under tremendous pressure.

Telegram from President Gerald Ford, thanking the ambassador and his staff for the safe evacuation under tremendous pressure.

day planner with notes included, Tuesday and Wednesday

Wolfgang J. Lehmann’s day planner from 1975 records the two days of the evacuation from Vietnam, April 29th and 30th.

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