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.

Katie Speckart discussing artifacts
Farewell to Associate Curator Katie Speckart
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Katie Speckart joined the museum in 2004 when it was still known as the National Museum of American Diplomacy. 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
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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.

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
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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.

Patti Morton Meritorius Honor Award
In Memoriam: Patricia Anne (Patti) Morton
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May 30, 1935 – October 16, 2019 (age 84)
The first female Diplomatic Security special agent

As the first female Diplomatic Security special agent, Patti Morton was very aware of the legacy she would leave for women. 

The staff of the National Museum of American Diplomacy was saddened to learn of the passing of Patricia Anne (Patti) Morton on October 16, 2019 at her home in Washington DC. Patti was a beloved figure among the museum staff, having shared fascinating stories from her groundbreaking career — including, most notably, becoming the first female Diplomatic Security special agent in 1972.

Originally from Washington State, Patti joined the State Department as a Foreign Service staff officer in 1965 and during nearly 30 year career served in Nepal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Singapore, Vietnam, and Washington, D.C.

This clutch was used by Patricia Morton, recruited to be the first female Diplomatic Security Agent, to carry her .357 Magnum pistol while assigned to the Washington field office in the early 1970s. She weathered the difficult transition from an all-male service to one that included women. At the time, Diplomatic Security did not issue gear for women to hold their weapons. Ms. Morton found her own solution by using this clutch.

This clutch was used by Patricia Morton, recruited to be the first female Diplomatic Security Agent, to carry her .357 Magnum pistol while assigned to the Washington field office in the early 1970s. Gift of Patti Morton

Patti became the first female special agent in 1972 and faced many challenges. One item that she donated to the NMAD collection symbolizes this time: the blue clutch purse in which she carried her .357 Magnum pistol while assigned to the Washington field office in the early 1970s. At the time, Diplomatic Security did not issue gear for women to hold their weapons. Patti found her own solution by using this clutch. During her years as a special agent she earned the nickname “Pistol Packin’ Patti.”

In the all-male world of special agents, she encountered difficulty being accepted. Patti would tell the story of how she spent months being passed over for duty assignments in the Washington field office, since her first name stood out on the list of candidates as a woman’s. A sympathetic supervisor finally fixed this one day by listing available agents only by last name, resulting in Patti being picked for duty.

Patti also broke ground at U.S. Embassy Saigon as the first female Regional Security Officer. Her duties included supervising the Marine security guards who guarded the embassy. The Marines gave her a camouflage uniform (including a matching elastic hair band) to wear the first time they took her to the shooting range, wanting her to fit in. Though she admitted not knowing where she learned to shoot a gun, she became known for being an excellent shot.

While in Vietnam she wrote the post’s evacuation plan, which was significant as it was put to use during the fall of Saigon in April 1975 and the ultimate evacuation and closure of the embassy. Against her wishes she was ordered to evacuate Saigon a few weeks before the city fell, owing to a supervisor who felt the environment was no place for a woman. She had to leave without any of her household effects, which were never returned to her.  

What might just seem like toy cars are actually effective diplomatic training aids. Diplomatic Security Agent Patti Morton utilized these toy cars as part of her duties to train employees at U.S. Embassy Saigon in the art of defensive driving, demonstrating various scenarios which a diplomat might encounter on the road.

Diplomatic Security Agent Patti Morton utilized these toy cars as part of her duties to train employees at U.S. Embassy Saigon in the art of defensive driving. Gift of Patti Morton

Patti was an early supporter of the museum, donating her badge and and special agent ID along with other items in 2004. Among her later donations was a set of toy cars that she used for a very serious purpose: training employees at U.S. Embassy Saigon in the art of defensive driving, demonstrating various scenarios which a diplomat might encounter on the road. 

Patti was a consistent presence at NMAD programs and events, showing her unwavering support for the museum. NMAD staff is grateful for her important, trailblazing contributions to American diplomacy and to the museum. Whatever she encountered during her career, Patti shared with us that she would always adapt and make the best with what was available. She had her champions as well as her detractors – she knew that her work was always being watched and evaluated.

Reflecting upon being the first female Department of State Special Agent, Patti said, “When I think of being the first woman security officer, what I think of most is I hope I have done the best job I can, and that it will be easier for those who follow.” 

In early 2019, NMAD Director Mary D. Kane had the opportunity to meet Patti Morton.

Freed hostage Bruce Laingen makes ?V? signs as he steps from the first of four planes carrying the freed hostages from West Point, N.Y., to their official welcome in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 1981 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Laingen was the charge d?affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Iran.
Veterans in Diplomatic Service: L. Bruce Laingen, 1922-2019
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We salute our nation’s veterans! An estimated 7,100 military veterans serve our nation in diplomatic capacities at the Department of State. Throughout our nation’s history, the branches of the military and the Department of State have worked closely together to promote our national security and protect Americans at home and abroad. Building upon this partnership, many military veterans continue to serve our country by joining the diplomatic ranks.  

A notable veteran turned diplomat was L. Bruce Laingen who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a member of the Navy Supply Corps. He was a supply and disbursing officer for a group of landing craft that were used in beach invasions during the Philippine campaigns. He saw combat in the invasion of Luzon at Lingayen Gulf in January 1945.

After the war, he graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and went on to earn a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Minnesota. He joined the Foreign Service in 1950 and served until 1987 at posts in Germany, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and as U.S. Ambassador to Malta.

Ambassador Laingen endured one of the most harrowing diplomatic crises of the 20th century. 

In 1979, U.S. Embassy Tehran, Iran, became a visible target during the political revolution led by Islamic fundamentalists against the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Animosity towards westerners, in particular Americans who had backed the Shah, had been building for over a year. 

On November 4, 1979, Laingen was serving as Charge d’Affaires (the acting ambassador) at U.S. Embassy Tehran when militants scaled the embassy compound walls, seized control of the embassy, and forcibly detained 66 American staff. At the time of the take over, Laingen and two other embassy staff were meeting with Iranian provisional government leaders at the Foreign Ministry and were detained there. 

Earlier that year on February 14th, militants temporarily took over the U.S. embassy, however the situation was resolved the same day. Many embassy employees did not expect the situation on November 4th to last very long. U.S. embassy Political Officer John Limbert recalled his expectation that the seizure would be a “1970’s style student sit-in” rather than a protracted hostage-taking situation. At the Foreign Ministry, Laingen demanded that the Iranians, as the host government, uphold the diplomatic convention of protecting the exterior of a foreign embassy from intrusion. Unfortunately, none of this happened. Ultimately, 52 Americans were held hostage by the Iranians for 444 days.

On January 20, 1981, after the signing of agreements brokered by Algerian diplomats, Ambassador Laingen and his colleagues were freed from Iran. They flew immediately to Algeria and then to Germany for medical treatment at the U.S. Air Force base in Weisbaden. Afterward, they returned to the United States amid great fanfare. All of the freed Americans were showered with gifts, cards, certificates, and memorabilia that reflected the solidarity across the country for their plight as hostages. 

Looking back at his time in captivity, Ambassador Laingen evoked his experience in the Navy. Being held at the Iranian Foreign Ministry – apart from most of the staff being held at the embassy – was especially hard because he was the “captain of the ship.” He felt it was his duty to be with his people and do what we could to help them. 

Ambassador Laingen donated several items that represent his 1981 return to freedom to the National Museum of American Diplomacy. His story reflects the best of the State Department and U.S. military relationship and the values of service and patriotism that veterans bring to their diplomatic service. 

Items from the Secretary's office donated to National museum of american diplomacy
Madam Secretary Artifacts in the National Museum of American Diplomacy Collection
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Madam Secretary Artifacts in the National Museum of American Diplomacy Collection

In 2019, the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) 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.

NMAD 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.