Stories from the Collection

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 8,000 items, the collection reflects a wide range of people, places, and issues that make up our nation’s rich diplomatic history. Here is a spotlight on a few of the stories the items in our collection tell.

White empty new storage facility with racks
New collection storage facility completed
New collection storage facility completed 1024 768

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…

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Chronicle of Freedom
Chronicle of Freedom 150 150

This 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…

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A diplomatic crisis
A diplomatic crisis 150 150

Fake eyeglassesIssued 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…

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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
Archival Collection of the First African American Ambassador Comes to the Diplomacy Center 1024 768

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…

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Page of old scrapbook featuring family of four
A Legacy of Service
A Legacy of Service 1024 775

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…

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Passport, Diplomacy Center, Rufus King
Piracy and Passports: How American merchants protected themselves from capture and enslavement
Piracy and Passports: How American merchants protected themselves from capture and enslavement 633 181

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…

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Crowd of soldiers walk by citizens in a black and white photo with Austrian Alps in background
Medal of Freedom
Medal of Freedom 1024 811

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…

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in a case, items from the NATO treaty and accession instruments
Commemorating 70 years of the North Atlantic Treaty
Commemorating 70 years of the North Atlantic Treaty 1024 574

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,…

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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
Evacuation under pressure 1024 688

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…

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Old photograph of Washington DC bridge and crowd
The Embassy Presence in Washington D.C.
The Embassy Presence in Washington D.C. 976 710

by Priscilla R. Linn Finding embassies on a map of Washington, D.C. is a relatively straightforward task. They lie in northwest quadrant of one of the smallest capitals in the world, often lining up along (or close to) the avenues that city planner Pierre L’Enfant drew up over 200 years ago. Other locations in Washington,…

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Patti Morton stands smiling next to Diplomacy Center Mary Kane
Director’s Note: A Conversation with “Pistol Packin’ Patti”
Director’s Note: A Conversation with “Pistol Packin’ Patti” 1024 658

Patti Morton (right) is presented with a Meritorious Step Increase award by Chief of Mission Hank Cohen in Kinshasa, 1968. Morton received this award for the excellent quality of her work as post security officer, which she took on in addition to her regular duties as secretary to the Administrative Counselor. “When I think of…

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Document of Martin Van Buren's Secretary of State Commission
Signed by President Jackson, and Hamilton’s son
Signed by President Jackson, and Hamilton’s son 1024 765

Martin Van Buren served as the 10th U.S. Secretary of State and the 8th President of the United States. He entered politics in 1813 and served as a New York state senator, a U.S. Senator, and later as New York governor. He resigned to join President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet as U.S. Secretary of State, serving…

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United States flag and pole
A Symbol and an Inspiration
A Symbol and an Inspiration 640 386

This flag graced the office of Colonel Ron Roughead, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Kenya, at U.S. Embassy Nairobi. On August 7, 1998, in coordinated attacks by al Qaeda terrorists, U.S. Embassies Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were devastated by car bombs. Embassy Nairobi and the surrounding neighborhood suffered extensive damage and…

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Ambassador Dubs in Afghanistan holding flag
“I would rather sacrifice my life…”
“I would rather sacrifice my life…” 1024 750

Letter from Ambassador Adolph Dubs to his daughter Lindsay March 3, 1973. This letter was donated to the Diplomacy Center collection from Lindsay in 2018. Adolph “Spike” Dubs was a career Foreign Service Officer and noted Soviet expert. In 1973-74 he served as charge d’affaires at Embassy Moscow, and in 1978, he was appointed U.S.…

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A young H.W. Bush with Nixon at his side swears over the Bible
In Memoriam: George Herbert Walker Bush (1924-2018): Veteran, Statesman, Diplomat
In Memoriam: George Herbert Walker Bush (1924-2018): Veteran, Statesman, Diplomat 1024 708

On November 30, 2018 former President George Herbert Walker Bush died at age 94. A distinguished Navy pilot in World War II, former President Bush lived an accomplished life, serving his nation in various capacities, including: President, Vice President, Director of the Central Investigative Agency, Member of both the House and Senate, and as a…

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Diplomacy Center exhibit cases of Nuclear Arms including flags, artifacts, and information
Spotlight On: Nuclear Risk Reduction
Spotlight On: Nuclear Risk Reduction 1024 768

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 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Delegation (INF Delegation) This wing tip was once part of a ground launched cruise missile which was eliminated at Davis…

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Sports Diplomacy
Sports Diplomacy 150 150

What do sports have to do with diplomacy? People are at the heart of diplomacy. The U.S. Department of State engages youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and rising leaders around the world and the United States through many types of exchange programs, striving to reflect the diversity of the U.S. and the global society. Sports…

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Gift Exchange
Gift Exchange 150 150

What type of gifts do Secretaries of State receive? Secretaries of State receive wide variety gifts from many foreign officials and private citizens around the world. Gift giving is an age-old diplomatic tradition and is a common ceremonial aspect of diplomatic visits. Oftentimes, the gift reflects the tastes and personality of the giver. The gift…

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Global Issues
Global Issues 150 150

What do a fire helmet, a missile launcher, and a Carnival costume have to do with diplomacy? Each of these items represents a global issue that shapes the practice of diplomacy today. U.S. diplomats serve our nation by securing peace, increasing prosperity, promoting democracy, and sustaining development efforts worldwide, benefiting Americans at home. In practice,…

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#AskACurator
#AskACurator 150 150

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…

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Remembrance, Reflection, Resilience
Remembrance, Reflection, Resilience 150 150

Remembrance, Reflection, Resilience Twenty years ago on a summer morning, two U.S. embassies in Africa fell victim to coordinated and nearly simultaneous truck bombs – later linked to the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. Fifty-six U.S. government employees, contractors, and family members were killed. From the ashes, countless survivors pulled together and rebuilt strengthened and resilient communities.…

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A Passport Without A Photo
A Passport Without A Photo 150 150

Before affixed photographs were required in 1914, applicants swore “solemnly and sincerely” to be U.S. citizens and identified themselves by facial features, hair, eye, and complexion color. This is one of the oldest passports in our collection from 1859-belonging to Samuel Waller (1824-1864). A New York City dry goods importer, Waller traveled frequently to Europe…

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Embassies as Safe Houses
Embassies as Safe Houses 150 150

Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty was the highest Catholic official in Hungary in the mid-20th century, and a vociferous opponent of communism.  After WWII, as the Soviet Union’s political influence extended through Eastern Europe, Mindszenty was tried, convicted of treason in 1949, and sentenced to life in prison.  He was released in 1956 during a political reform movement,…

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African American History Month
African American History Month 150 150

These African American pioneers shaped American history. Read on to discover more about trailblazing ambassadors, influential activists, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. U.S. diplomat, Olympic athlete, United States Army Air Forces WWII veteran, and University of Colorado Boulder grad David Bolen had an incredible career. As ambassador to East Germany in 1977, Bolen was the first…

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Camp David Peace Accords
Camp David Peace Accords 150 150

On September 17, 1978, the Camp David Peace Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. President Jimmy Carter facilitated the long negotiations at the presidential retreat in Maryland in 1978. The talks represented the importance of diplomacy and paved the way for the March 26, 1979 signing of a…

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Dayton Peace Accords
Dayton Peace Accords 150 150

December 14 marks the 22nd anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in Paris, France. For 21 days in November, Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Assistant Secretary of State for Canadian and European Affairs Richard Holbrooke led negotiations with the Presidents from Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina at Wright-Patterson Airforce Base in Dayton,…

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Passports for Protection
Passports for Protection 150 150

American passport = protection. This 1798 passport is the oldest in our collection.  It was issued to wealthy Bostonian David Hinckley. The story behind this early passport is quite interesting. Americans did not need a passport to travel abroad, yet many nations required proof of U.S. citizenship to exit their country. Many Americans “passed” through a “port” like David Hinckley did as part…

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