Past Exhibits & Programs

The United States Diplomacy Center offers first-hand stories of American diplomacy. Hear from diplomats, foreign policy experts, historians and other people from the ground in our Pavilion’s lower level. Past events included diplomats living in rural South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, a panel tracing the history of HIV/AIDs and the State Department’s response, and the story of the first African American Diplomats.

To learn about upcoming events, please sign up to our email list below or follow our Facebook page.

Instructor discusses with middle school students
Students Inspired to Become Diplomats
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Over the past year, the Diplomacy Center has expanded its Diplomacy Simulation Program to the middle school level, piloting programs in the Washington, D.C. area. Students in grades six through eight have proved more than up to the challenge of learning about diplomacy! Middle schoolers in history and global studies classes from Stuart-Hobson Middle School, The Langley School, Hart Middle School, and the Congressional School have enjoyed stepping into the role of diplomat to learn about the world of foreign affairs. The Diplomacy Center Simulation Program helps them develop 21st century skills such as negotiating and finding common ground, helping them to prepare for success in today’s global economy. As one parent enthusiastically wrote, “Thank you so much for hosting…the Langley 8th graders. [My daughter] came home extremely excited about the experience. She told me her dream is to get a job at the State Department!”

Take a look at the Diplomacy Center’s free class materials or video walk-throughs.

Seal in the Diplomacy Center Pavilion
A Century of Service – US Diplomatic Courier Services turns 100
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The United States Diplomacy Center is honored to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Diplomatic Courier Service with a new exhibit, “100 Years of Diplomatic Couriers—None Swifter than These,” on display from Oct 31, 2018 through February 3, 2019.

In 1918, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing authorized U.S. Army Major Amos J. Peaslee to organize a wartime courier service to expedite mail between the U.S. embassy in Paris and Washington. General Peaslee’s “Silver Greyhounds,” denoted by the greyhound patch on their uniforms, were formally assigned that same year to the U.S. Department of State. The Silver greyhounds became the first U.S. organization dedicated to transport of diplomatic pouches and thus the Diplomatic Courier Service (DCS) was born.

Today, diplomatic couriers spend tens of thousands of hours annually delivering tens of millions of pounds of classified material by air, sea, and land to more than 275 U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. The famous orange pouches have been featured in Hollywood movies and can range from confidential documents to hi-tech devices or even construction equipment.

The exhibits features items used throughout the history of the DCS and how that mission has evolved over the years to keep ahead of evolving threats of espionage, terror, and even bad weather.  Also on display are bugging devices, such as the one found in the Great Seal of the United States at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow which resulted in a shift in the diplomatic courier mission—from carrying confidential messages, to also transporting construction and other materials for secure areas in U.S. embassies. 

Items on display were provided by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, working in collaboration with the US Diplomacy Center. The exhibit represents the State Department’s commitment to highlight the efforts and mission of the Diplomatic Courier Service, whose essential work supports and ensures the safety and integrity of employees and resources in US missions all over the World.

For more information on the the Courier Service and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security:

American and German flags with text WunderBar together over it
Wunderbar Together: A Year-Long Celebration of German-American Friendship
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In October, Germany kicked off Wunderbar Together, a major, year-long initiative to celebrate the Year of German-American Friendship (“Deutschlandjahr USA”).

An initiative of the German Federal Foreign Office, implemented by the Goethe-Institut, and with support from the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Wunderbar Together showcased the transatlantic partnership, highlighting areas of German-American cooperation in business, industry, politics, education, culture, science, civil society, and sports and lifestyle. This initiative culminates in fall 2019 with the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

To mark this kick-off, the Diplomacy Center, the Diplomacy Center Foundation, and the German Embassy are hosted a panel discussion on U.S.-German relations, followed by a reception. The panel includes Dr. Steven S. Sokol, President of the American Council on Germany, German Ambassador Emily Haber, and former U.S. ambassador to Germany Robert M Kimmitt.

The United States Diplomacy Center featured its segment of the Berlin Wall that bears the signatures of world leaders who worked to end the Cold War.

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.

Photo exhibit in the Diplomacy Center pavilion
Afghanistan’s Heritage: Restoring Spirit and Stone
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The United States Diplomacy Center is pleased to host the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs’ photo exhibition Afghanistan’s Heritage: Restoring Spirit and Stone from October 9th through October 29th.  The 37 images are from the U.S. Embassy Kabul commissioned photobook of the same name, showcasing historic sites, monuments, and cultural institutions that have benefited from the Embassy’s support.  The photobook also includes essays from young Afghan thought-leaders and pioneers.  Award-winning photojournalist Robert Nickelsberg, with over thirty years of experience documenting Afghanistan, was enlisted for the project.

Afghanistan’s heritage is unmatched in its richness and diversity, and the shared patrimony serves as a unifying foundation for all Afghans.  By protecting and preserving Afghanistan’s monuments, archaeological treasures, and cultural traditions such as poetry and music, the United States is helping to build a more resilient Afghanistan by giving all Afghans a deeper sense of what binds them together, strengthening economic opportunities, and educating a new generation to help foster co-existence and tolerance.

Please find out more about U.S. Embassy Kabul at Discover Diplomacy! Or check out our previous exhibit.

Women present their project at ImpactHack
ImpactHack 2018
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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

In September, Amazon Web Services sponsored ImpackHack 2018 hosted by the United States Diplomacy Center and World Resources Institute, where teams competed against one another innovating creative ways to highlight the impact of diplomacy.  Alex Cohen (Maryland), Taylor Funk (Virginia), Brianna McGowan (Maryland), and Chaudhry Talha (District of Columbia) created the winning project, My State, My State Department.  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 map allowed users to explore the benefits of real diplomatic negotiations to regional U.S. interests. 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.

The United States Diplomacy Center utilizes technology to understand the impact of diplomacy on international cooperation and its impact on the every day lives of Americans.

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.

These are a few objects of condolence sent from around the world including South Africa and Australia.
Honoring the Victims of September 11, 2001
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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.
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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
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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. However, a handful of visitors 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 the economy of his or her 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
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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.