Collection Highlights

NMAD acquired several significant artifacts this year that vividly illustrate moments in U.S. diplomatic history and some of the dedicated people who have served our country in diplomatic capacities. A few of our new acquisitions are highlighted here.  

the beret and cross artifacts acquired for the collection this year

Beret and cross, gifts to Kathryn Koob, 1981

Kathryn Koob was a Foreign Service Officer serving as the director of the Iran-American Society, a nonprofit organization established by the U.S. government to foster educational and community ties between the two countries. She arrived in Tehran just four months before the American embassy was seized by Iranian militants on Nov. 4, 1979. From her office two miles away, she relayed information to Washington for a day before she, too, was captured. She became one of two women who were held hostage during the entire ordeal. 

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Kathryn is a person of deep faith, which sustained her while held captive. “The idea of a contemplative lifestyle intrigued me. What would it be like? Here was my opportunity to find out,” she recounted in her 1982 book “Guest of the Revolution.” 

Through negotiations brokered by Algeria, a deal securing the hostages’ release was achieved on January 19, 1981. The next day, they were flown immediately to Algeria and then to Germany for medical treatment at the U.S. Air Force base in Weisbaden. After a few days, they returned to the United States and were welcomed home with great fanfare.

Kate and the other freed Americans received many gifts upon their return to the United States. Kate received this beret and silver cross which represents her strong resilient spirit in spite of the prolonged captivity. 

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Telephone set, State Department Operations Center 1980s-2011

Telephone, Operations Center, 1980s

Diplomacy never sleeps nor takes a day off. To maintain 24/7 worldwide communications, the Department of State has an Operations Center staffed by highly skilled diplomats and crisis management experts to meet any worldwide challenge. In the 1980s, this included monitoring the launches and returns of NASA Space Shuttles.

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During this era, as NASA prepared to launch crews from Cape Kennedy in Florida, a small team of diplomats in Washington, DC, also gathered at the State Department Operations Center during each launch. Their role was to help facilitate emergency landings of the shuttle overseas, should it be necessary. With a special phone that connected to mission control — such as this one, now part of NMAD’s collection — the team was also connected to backup landing sites in various countries around the world in Europe, Africa, and Asia. If an emergency landing was needed, the State Department would have quickly informed the country involved and would work to obtain assistance from that country to return the astronaut and the capsule.

While an actual emergency landing never occurred, State played a vital role in making sure the bilateral agreements for these sites were in place and enabled use at a moment’s notice.

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Commission, Appointment of Edward R. Dudley as Ambassador to Liberia, 1949

In 1948, President Truman appointed Edward R. Dudley to serve as U.S. Minister to Liberia. Dudley was a civil rights lawyer from New York who worked at the NAACP with Thurgood Marshall and later as legal counsel to the Governor of the United States Virgin Islands. 

At the time of Dudley’s appointment, the U.S. Government represented its interests through a legation in Monrovia. In 1949, Truman decided to elevate the legation to an embassy and appointed Mr. Dudley as the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, thus becoming the first African American to be named a U.S. Ambassador.

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Ambassador Dudley influenced significant changes in the Foreign Service for African American officers. At the time, black FSOs were relegated to overseas assignments in what was pejoratively called the “Negro circuit.” These were posts in “black, hardship, disagreeable” places — as Dudley referred to them — including Monrovia, Liberia, Ponta del Gada, Portugal, and Madagascar. Upon arrival in Monrovia, Mr. Dudley realized that this situation was not only unfair but also against the policies of the Foreign Service. He wrote a detailed report to the State Department, citing specific examples and statistics to make the case that black FSOs were being treated unfairly and that the State Department was in violation of its policies. This memo, as well as Ambassador Dudley’s direct communication with officials in Washington, led to the breaking up of the “Negro circuit” and more opportunities for black FSOs to serve in a wider variety of posts, employing their skills and knowledge around the world. Dudley later recounted that he felt this was “… probably one of the more important things that I did the whole time I was there.” 

After his service in Liberia, Dudley continued his legal career and was later appointed to the New York Supreme Court.

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Commission Appointment of Edward R. Dudley as Ambassador to Liberia 1949
Bugged Concrete

Bugged Concrete, 1985

In 1985, U.S. security officers discovered that Soviet workers had planted electronic eavesdropping devices, such as this one found in a preformed concrete slab, throughout the recently constructed New Office Building of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The building was eventually razed, and construction began again with only cleared U.S. workers and secure materials in the mid-1990s.

The U.S. Department of State now takes measures to prevent this type of tampering and the Diplomatic Courier Service plays a central role. Even materials as large as concrete pillars are sometimes sent via classified diplomatic pouches to ensure any potential risk is mitigated.

Diplomatic Passport, issued to Tom Gallagher, 2007

PassportDuring most of the 20th century, personnel policies of the Department of State were hostile to individuals who did not identify as heterosexual. Employees who were not considered “straight” were deemed a security risk and were systematically investigated and forced to resign. This was true throughout the federal government. Starting in the mid-1970s, rules for the federal Civil Service prohibited such practices, however these did not apply to the military or to the Foreign Service.

Tom Gallagher joined the Foreign Service in 1965, his first assignment was Vice Consul in Saudi Arabia. Ten years later while posted domestically, he came out as an openly gay Foreign Service Officer while speaking at a conference on gays in the federal government in Washington DC. It is believed that he is the first FSO to do so.

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Tom assumed that he would get his security clearance revoked and subsequently lose his job due to his coming out. He served one more assignment in Ecuador after coming out publicly. However, he resigned after this post knowing that his security clearance would be in jeopardy once he was required to go through the regular process of renewal. Tom moved to California and started a new career as a social worker. 

Nearly 20 years later in 1994, President Bill Clinton prohibited personnel and security policies that were hostile toward homosexuals in the Foreign Service. Tom decided to return to his beloved career as a Foreign Service Officer. His first assignment was Chief of the Visa Section at U.S. Embassy Madrid, Spain. While serving there, Tom helped raise $3 million for the Spanish AIDS Foundation. He also served as Country Officer for Eritrea and Sudan at the State Department, and as Chief of the Visa Section at U.S. Embassy Brussels, Belgium. His final tours at the State Department were with the Office of International Health, where he served as a Senior Advisor and worked on international AIDS programs, and as Country Officer, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Uganda. 

After retiring in 2005, Gallagher continued to serve short temporary tours for the State Department including assignments at 17 embassies and consulates on five continents. This Diplomatic Passport is from this era of his service. 

“…remember that all of the employees who sacrificed their right to be who they were, were really defending your rights and the rights and freedoms of others at home and abroad.” — Remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, GLIFAA* 20th anniversary, November 2012, after honoring Tom Gallagher.

*Employee affinity group Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies 

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Tom Gallagher Portrait