Artifact Collection Highlights

The National Museum of Diplomacy’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 9,000 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.

Welcome Group with Yellow Ribbons
“Tie a Yellow Ribbon:” The Origin of the National Response to the Iran Hostage Crisis
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In November 1979, 52 Americans in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran were taken hostage by Iranian students. Everyone, from the most junior staff members to the person in charge of the embassy, were taken and held in captivity for 444 days. Closely following the crisis for over a year, the public wanted to show their support for the hostages and their families. Yellow ribbons became the symbol of hope for their safe return.

But why a yellow ribbon?

It starts with a diplomat’s wife and a popular song. read more

2020 Artifact Highlights National Museum of American Diplomacy
Our Favorite Artifact Acquisitions of 2020
Our Favorite Artifact Acquisitions of 2020 1024 493

For the National Museum of American Diplomacy, building our artifact collection has always involved a focus on both the past and the present. Collecting has focused on not only documenting historical events and individuals, but also the work being done by diplomats today.

For 2020, as historic events shook the world, “collecting the present” took on special significance as the museum collected items and their stories.

Artifacts from a global pandemic

wuhan evacuation team patch
Patch from Wuhan Evacuation Team. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy.

In the midst of a global pandemic, the museum safely collected items representing the State Department’s frontline work bringing over 100,000 Americans home from overseas, as travel options disappeared in February and March. This patch was created by one of the evacuation teams out of a shared sense of mission and camaraderie. 

Patch Howard County Police Artifact
Patch presented to the U.S. Ambassador in Cameroon from a firefighter. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy.

Another patch we collected was handed to the U.S. Ambassador in Cameroon, Peter Barlerin, by an evacuee while he was in the process of boarding the 1st evacuation flight from Cameroon. It was given as an impromptu token of thanks from a firefighter from Maryland for the embassy’s efforts to get him home.

Other items collected from the repatriation efforts include examples of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ticket stubs from a family that was successfully evacuated.

 

Artifacts from protests here and abroad

Artifact from a Black Lives Matter protest from the U.S. Embassy in Kingstom Jamaica
Poster from a Black Lives Matter protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy.

As protests calling for racial justice spread across the nation this summer, they also spread across the world. U.S. embassies and consulates became places for people from other countries to express support and solidarity with those protesting in the United States. American embassies have long been sites of protest, solidarity, and sympathy for the United States and its people.

This protest sign, expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, was used in a protest outside the U.S Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. There, the U.S. Ambassador and members of his staff visited and engaged with the protestors, doing their duty to represent the United States and be a vital conduit for communication between nations.

A day planner that survived the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings

Day planner. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy. Gift of Ellen (Bomer) Richard.

This day planner belonged to Ellen Richard, one of the survivors of the August 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. Richard lost her eyesight due to injuries from the bombing, and her personal story of courage and resilience — like that of so many others — is inspiring. Her day planner managed to survive the bombing despite the near-total interior destruction of the part of the embassy she was in; it was sitting on her desk at the time of the explosion.

Artifacts from Dr. Ralph Bunche

Signature page from an armistice agreement ending the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy. Gift of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies.

Dr. Ralph Bunche’s diplomatic career spanned from the mid-1940s to around 1970. Honored by the State Department as a “Hero of Diplomacy” in 2020, his many accomplishments include participating in the formation of the United Nations and brokering an armistice in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, for which he was awarded a Nobel Peace prize in 1950. Dr. Bunche was the first African American to win such an honor. 

This page of signatures is from one of the several armistice agreements signed after the official end of the war. Other items collected from Dr. Bunche’s career include an armband, pictured below, that he wore while observing peacekeeping missions during the early years of the United Nations. 

United Nations armband worn by Dr. Ralph Bunche. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy. Gift of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies.

An early treaty from 1818

Treaty of Amity and Commerce Front
Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy. Gift of Dr. Maria Albin.

This document is a contemporary print, from 1818, of an important early treaty between the United States and Sweden: the Treaty of Amity & Commerce. The original version was signed in 1783. This is a later, renewed version of the treaty completed in 1818.

A practice target from a trailblazer

Patti Morton Practice Target
Patti Morton’s practice target. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy. Gift of the estate of Patti Morton.

Patti Morton was a trailblazer for women’s rights at the U.S. Department of State. She advocated for women to do any job without restriction. In the early 1970s, Morton became the first woman Diplomatic Security Special Agent. Throughout her career, she strived to make it easier for the women who would follow her. She became an inspiration to many, fighting for the fair and unbiased treatment of women in the diplomatic workforce.

This framed practice target speaks very clearly to her nickname, “Pistol Packin’ Patti,” and that she was renowned for her natural shooting ability. One of her other trailblazing roles was as a regional security officer in Saigon, South Vietnam in 1974 where she managed the Marines who guarded the embassy. The Marines welcomed her as one of their own and gave her a camouflage uniform so that she would fit in with them on the target shooting range. She was proud of the fact that she was judged proficient with the full range of weapons that the Marine guards were trained to use.

Contribute to the museum

We are actively seeking artifacts that represent American diplomacy and the work of the U.S. Department of State. These artifacts can come from a variety of individuals and sources. Anyone currently or previously working in a diplomatic capacity might have objects that could be a good fit for our collection. If you have items you might be interested in donating, please email us for more information.

Artifact Collection Highlights: Ambassador Dudley’s Passport and Items From a Diplomatic Courier
Artifact Collection Highlights: Ambassador Dudley’s Passport and Items From a Diplomatic Courier 1024 768

The National Museum of American Diplomacy has collected some significant items in recent weeks. These include a diplomatic passport issued to Ambassador Edward R. Dudley, the first African American to hold the rank of ambassador. The passport joins a number of documents, letters, and photographs from Dudley’s trailblazing service collected in 2019.

Also collected were items from Joseph H.L. Garrison, who served as a diplomatic courier in the early 1950s. From a colorful diplomatic courier service patch and “Practical Spanish” language booklet to an ID card and courier commissions, these items tell one person’s interesting story.

  • Issued September 10, 1948, Edward R. Dudley used this passport to travel to his assignment as U.S. Minister to Liberia. In 1949, the U.S. mission to Liberia was upgraded to embassy status, and Dudley was promoted to the rank of ambassador.
  • This notebook was used by Garrison during his travels to keep track of his arrival times, travel expenditures, and other details related to his work.
  • The complete collection of items from the courier career of Joseph H.L. Garrison

 

Meeting with Algerian diplomats - Christmas 1980-crop
John Limbert: Bringing Meaning to a “Bunch of Old Clothes”
John Limbert: Bringing Meaning to a “Bunch of Old Clothes” 1024 710

Think of an historic event you personally witnessed or experienced first hand. Do you remember what you wore?

NMAD  has several articles of clothing in its collection belonging to diplomats who served on the front lines. The museum intends to interpret several of these items in its permanent exhibit, “The Challenging and Dangerous Work of Diplomacy,” within the context of a significant event in diplomatic history and the personal stories behind the diplomats who wore them. In the exhibit, visitors will be introduced to diplomats, embassy staff, and foreign service nationals who carry out their duties in service to our nation, often in high-risk situations. Retired Foreign Service Officer John Limbert, an American diplomat who was held hostage in Iran, generously made one such donation of historically significant clothing to NMAD.

Limbert arrived at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in August 1979. Less than three months later, on November 4, Iranian student militants scaled the compound’s walls, seized control of the embassy, and forcibly detained American staff. The Iranians held Limbert and 51 other Americans hostages for 444 days.

Denied any of their personal belongings, the hostages were forced to wear the same clothes they were wearing at the time of the take-over for the duration of their captivity. Limbert, dressed in business casual attire, was wearing dark green wool trousers, a black cotton/wool blend shirt, and a blue wool blend cardigan. To prevent escape attempts, his captors took his shoes, and gave him a mis-matched pair of brown rubber sandals instead. The left sandal is size 11, and the right sandal is size 8. 

Despite the hardships of captivity, Limbert remained optimistic without bitterness toward the Iranians, noting “I maintained professionalism throughout the ordeal. I never became an abuser in return. I used what I knew about Iranian social norms, courtesies, and culture to find a way to work with my captors.” When they told him, “You never stopped being a diplomat” they meant it as an insult. Limbert accepted it as a compliment.

John Limbert generously donated his clothing from his ordeal to NMAD, remarking, “let me thank…the museum of diplomacy for bringing meaning to what would otherwise be a collection of old clothes.”

John Limbert’s dark green wool trousers, a black cotton/wool blend shirt, and a blue wool blend cardigan. John’s captors provided a pair of brown rubber sandals after taking away his shoes. Collection of the National Museum of American Diplomacy.

For museums and their visitors, an object — also known as an artifact — can be important for different reasons. For art museums in particular, the object is important because it has artistic merit. The style, the execution, or the visual impact are what brings it meaning and significance as a tangible object.

In other instances, especially in history-focused museums, objects carry significance as witnesses — something that was present at a historical event, carried by an important person, or otherwise is meaningful because of where it was or who used it. That connection makes them meaningful for visitors and helps tell the story of the event or the person it bore  witness to. John Limbert’s clothing bore witness to the entire 444 days of his ordeal as a hostage in Iran.

When donating his clothes to NMAD, Limbert referred to his gift as “a bunch of old clothes.” However, in the context of the museum’s collection and future exhibitions, these “old clothes” have significant meaning and an important story to tell. 

Limbert’s clothing joins a significant collection of objects that NMAD has collected to represent this crisis in U.S. diplomatic history. These include a blindfold used on hostage Robert Blucker during his captivity; buttons, flags, and other items representing Americans’ support and solidarily during the crisis collected by by hostage Elizabeth Ann Swift and her family & friends; and awards, proclamations, and other “welcome home” materials from Bruce Laingen, who was in charge of the U.S. embassy when he and his colleagues were taken hostage.

Learn more about how you, too can contribute to the NMAD museum collection and about the development of the museum.

Limbert discusses his clothing donation with NMAD staff

John Limbert (center) meets with Associate Curator Katie Speckart (left), Director Mary Kane (right), and Collections Manager Eric Duyck (far right) and donates his clothing to the museum collection. October 2018.

Certificate to Hans Tuch from Richard Nixon
In Memoriam of Hans Tuch
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NMAD mourns the passing of American diplomat Hans Tuch. In 1959, as the U.S. Embassy Moscow Public Affairs Officer Hans “Tom” Tuch accompanied U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to the American National Exhibition in Moscow, pausing at the display of a modern kitchen. Nixon and Khrushchev famously debated the merits of communism versus capitalism during the tour, an encounter which caused a sensation, making news headlines the next day.  

For his participation in what became known as the “Kitchen Debate,” Tuch was presented this unique tongue-in-cheek certificate. In 2016, he graciously donated it to the museum.  

We appreciate Mr. Tuch’s many contributions to American diplomacy and his strong support of the museum.

Hans Tuch, Richard Nixon meet with Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow/

Hans Tuch (left) accompanied Vice President Richard Nixon (right) during a tour of the American National Exhibition in Moscow with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (center).

Katie Speckart discussing artifacts
Farewell to Associate Curator Katie Speckart
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Katie Speckart joined the museum in 2004. At that time, the collection consisted of 1,500 artifacts without an exhibition space of its own. Over the ensuing years, Katie played a key role in growing the collection to over 9,000 objects and was an integral team member during the construction of the 20,000 square foot glass pavilion on 21st Street the museum now calls home. 

Katie was also instrumental in developing important relationships with generous donors, like-minded institutions, and knowledgeable partners who freely shared their expertise and stories of diplomacy with the museum. Through these relationships, Katie significantly expanded the reach and reputation of the museum. Whether curating physical and on-line exhibits, researching and writing about the collection, speaking to live and digital audiences, teaching the next generation of museum professionals, or nurturing important relationships, Katie’s presence loomed large at NMAD. She leaves a lasting legacy that NMAD will honor by continuing to build a world-class museum on American diplomacy. 

Farewell, Katie. We are grateful for your service.     

Sign from Black Lives Matter protest
Recent Artifact Acquisition: Jamaican Black Lives Matter Protest Sign
Recent Artifact Acquisition: Jamaican Black Lives Matter Protest Sign 1024 693

NMAD curatorial staff worked with U.S. Embassy Kingston, Jamaica to collect a sign from a recent Black Lives Matter protest in Kingston which took place outside the embassy building. As an artifact, this sign represents the current spirit of protest reaching around the world and also serves as an example of U.S. embassies’ role as sites both for protest and as rallying points for international unity.

Sign from Black Lives Matter protest

Sign collected from a Black Lives Matter protest outside U.S. Embassy Kingston, Jamaica by embassy staff in June 2020; it is now part of the museum’s permanent collection and serves as an example of U.S. embassies as sites for protest and rallying points for international unity.

Jeremiah Knight poses with activist

Jeremiah Knight (right), Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, poses with Black Lives Matter activists.

Top front of passport
Passport Travels: Meyer Franklin Kline, globetrotting guidebook editor
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Have a case of wanderlust? As you take a look at this passport from the museum’s collection, join Meyer Franklin Kline and his wife Mildred Kline as they travelled the world in 1915 and 1916.

The Klines, originally from California, planned to travel to Russia, China, Japan, India, the Straits Settlements, and Great Britain, “representing [a] Japanese steamship company.” This U.S. passport — like others from the same time period — included an area to list where the traveler was planning to travel and the reason why.

Title page from the 1919 edition of the reference book Meyer Franklin Kline managed & edited. Title page from the 1919 edition of the reference book Meyer Franklin Kline managed & edited.

Title page from the 1919 edition of the reference book Meyer Franklin Kline managed & edited. Title page from the 1919 edition of the reference book Meyer Franklin Kline managed & edited. Source: Google Books

A dream job

Meyer Franklin Kline, who went by Franklin, dreamed of travelling the world from a young age. In 1900, at the age of 18, he rode a bicycle from his home in Los Angeles all the way to Montreal in Canada. From there, he boarded a ship bound for Europe and attended the world’s fair in Paris.

“How fine it would be if I could get up some sort of a guide book so I could get expenses paid for a trip around the world,” Franklin recalled thinking during his early years, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1935. And that is exactly what he did.

Beginning around 1913, Franklin spent over twenty years traveling the world while working for the Osaka Mercantile Steamship Company Ltd. in Japan as the manager and editor of their annual reference book, Official Guide for Shippers & Travellers to the Principal Ports of the World. Made available in passenger cabins on the company’s ships, it served as both a handy reference book for global travelers and a promotional piece for the company’s services and history. Its hundreds of pages were chock full of facts, figures, and photos about ships and their routes — as well as about countries and major cities across the globe.

A well-traveled passport

This single-page passport, issued in June 1915, was one of many Franklin used during his travels over the years. The numerous stamps it bears — not to mention the worn edges and tears — speak to the travels Franklin and Mildred undertook in 1915 and 1916.

Cluster of stamps on back of passport, including visa for traveling through Russia in center, in purple ink. The handwriting in black ink above reads, in part: “Passage to China and Japan."

Cluster of stamps on back of passport, including visa for traveling through Russia in center, in purple ink. The handwriting in black ink above reads, in part: “Passage to China and Japan.”

A series of stamps across the front and back show one particularly long trip in June 1916, stretching from London to Japan. Starting out in London, they made stops to the U.S. Consulate General to have their passport’s expiration date extended on May 23 and June 2 — paying a total of $2 in fees in the process. They also visited the Russian Consulate General on June 2 to obtain a visa, thereby gaining approval to travel through Russia to China and then Japan.

Taking a northerly route from London through the Nordic countries — thereby avoiding  Central Europe and the active battlefields of World War I — they traveled to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where they would have boarded a ship headed north. Stamps show them stopping in Haparanda, Sweden on June 11th and then crossing the border to Tornio, Finland the same day. From Tornio they traveled on to Beloostrov, Russia on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, arriving June 12. Their long journey across Russia enroute to China was most likely made by train.

The back side of the passport features several lines in traditional Chinese. This is largely a replication of the standard “greeting” language from the front of the passport, included for the convenience of Chinese officials the traveler might encounter on their journey. “Smooth passage shall be granted to the aforementioned passport holders,” it requests for Franklin and Mildred. “No officer shall block their passage or pose any other obstacles to their visits; instead, protection and assistance shall be provided wherever necessary.” It also duplicates areas seen on the front for descriptive information about the bearer (age, height, shape of nose, mouth etc.)

Though no stamps mark the dates of their journey through China, there is a stamp from a government official in the Chinese city of Dalian and an accompanying chop (or official  seal) — indicating that Franklin and Mildred passed through on their journey. Dalian is a port city on the Yellow Sea and would have been a likely point of departure for a ship sailing for Japan, the final destination of their trip.

Several other trips are evident from the stamps and visas spread across this passport. One stamp by a Colonial Secretary in Hong Kong and a handwritten notation beside it — simply “Travelling to Australia” — shows Franklin and Mildred embarking on another long journey in November 1916.

Reflecting on a life of travel

“Meyer Franklin Kline, pictured in September 1935 holding a copy of the guidebook that he had spent over 20 years compiling and editing.

Meyer Franklin Kline, pictured in September 1935 holding a copy of the guidebook that he had spent over 20 years compiling and editing. Credit: M. Franklin Kline, Official Shippers Guide editor, Los Angeles, 1935, Los Angeles Times Photographic Archives (Collection 1429). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

By the time he was interviewed for the 1935 Los Angeles Times article, Franklin had made at least 22 trips around the world. He sometimes even circled the globe twice per year: once in the northern hemisphere, once in the southern. Over the course of the  previous year, he estimated he had traveled more than 55,000 miles.

During his trips he particularly enjoyed collecting rare Chinese objets d’ art (art objects). Since he frequently spent 11 months of the year traveling, he sent them to his home in Washington, D.C. for safekeeping.

Reflecting on his life of travel, Franklin revealed his priorities and his unabated wanderlust. “I have made money, yes, but that was the secondary consideration. I am just as much of a kid in my wish to see the world as I ever was. One can never finish seeing the world, you know.”

Passport Travels: Myriam Johnston, U.S. Information Agency Officer
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Spurred by a desire to see the world, Myriam Johnston joined the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1955.

Passport Travels: Myriam Johnston, U.S. Information Agency Officer

Spurred by a desire to see the world, Myriam Johnston joined the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1955. President Eisenhower had established USIA in 1953 in a concentrated effort to engage directly with foreign publics to advance understanding of American policies and culture. USIA played a key role in American foreign policy during the Cold War.

Johnston initially had not set out to become a diplomat, but after studying in France in high school and working as a flight attendant, she knew she wanted to continue traveling. She happened to hear her favorite radio disc jockey mention a recruiting fair at a local hotel for the Voice of America, a part of the USIA, and she decided to stop by during her lunch break.

As she recalled, she was about to leave — convinced they were looking for technical expertise she didn’t have — when she was pulled aside by a USIA recruiter. She explained her lack of experience. “I can’t really do anything except type and speak French,” she told him. “On the contrary,” he replied, “we would be very interested in you.”

Spurred by a desire to see the world, Myriam Johnston joined the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1955.

Assigned to Vietnam, the former colony of French Indochina, where she could use her language skills, Johnston departed for Saigon in March 1955. She recalled making several stops along the way. “They couldn’t fly you all the way [with no layovers]. It would kill you.” From Washington, D.C., she flew to Seattle then to Anchorage, Alaska. Then to Tokyo, with a day or two for rest. Then onward to Hong Kong, and finally to Saigon.

Johnston’s assignment to Saigon was at the height of the Cold War, amid the dissolution of French Indochina and a growing Communist insurgency led by Ho Chi Minh. Johnston’s work as a USIA diplomat meant she would play a key role in American foreign policy, engaging with the Vietnamese public about the United States and its values, and seeking to dissuade them from turning to communism.  While there, she worked on film distribution and production. Visa stamps in her passport show her travels around the region, including a visit to the neighboring Philippines, where she recalled the USIA recruiting script writers, camera men, and technicians to come to Saigon and train the Vietnamese in documentary filmmaking. Her assignment in Saigon ended in October 1957.

Myriam Johnston’s service with USIA spanned 25 years, from 1955 until her retirement in 1980. Other overseas assignments brought her to France, Côte d’Ivoire, and Bangladesh — utilizing four more passports also now in the museum’s collection, issued in 1959, 1969, 1975, and 1977.

Johnston, who married Richard R. Hallock later in her life and changed her name to Myriam Johnston Hallock, donated the passports and other items from her career to the museum in 2005 and 2007.

 

Photo of Lucys Briggs Passport
Passport Travels: Lucy Barnard Briggs, diplomatic spouse
Passport Travels: Lucy Barnard Briggs, diplomatic spouse 1024 785
The pages in the passport that include appended photos of Ellis and Lucy’s son (left) and daughter (right).

The pages in the passport that include appended photos of Ellis and Lucy’s son (left) and daughter (right).

Lucy Barnard Briggs used this passport in our collection for more than 12 years to travel the world.

Shortly after her marriage to American diplomat Ellis O. Briggs in May 1928, Lucy received this diplomatic passport and traveled with him to his post in Lima, Peru.

In 1929, Lucy and Ellis returned to the United States for Ellis’s next post in Washington, D.C. Years later, Lucy recalled that the stock market crash of 1929 happened the day after Ellis left on a short-term assignment to Libya: “I found myself in Washington with no bank to go to. But happily an uncle was visiting me and gave me $10.”

In late 1933, Lucy and her two-year-old daughter used this passport to travel to Havana, Cuba to join Ellis at his new post. They were there for four years, during which Lucy gave birth to a son. Photos of her daughter and son were appended to pages in this passport — as was the practice at this time, instead of issuing them their own separate passports.

Following another assignment in Washington, D.C., Lucy and her children traveled in September 1940 to Ellis’s next post: Santiago, Chile. Ellis’s assignment here ended in 1941, and Lucy and the children were issued a new diplomatic passport in February 1941.

The Briggs family’s diplomatic travels would continue until Ellis’s retirement in 1962; over the years, he also served in the Dominican Republic, China, Uruguay, Czechoslovakia, South Korea, Brazil, and Greece.

Ellis and Lucy’s son, Everett, donated this passport and other items representing their lives in the Foreign Service to the museum in 2004.