Diplomacy Museum, Stage One, Opens at State Department

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, four U.S. Secretaries of State — John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright — and former Ambassador to Portugal Elizabeth Frawley Bagley celebrated the completion of the first stage of the U.S. Diplomacy Center at the Department of State. Of the five top diplomats who hosted the opening reception and gave brief presentations, three — Kerry, Albright and Bagley — are longtime residents of Georgetown.

The U.S. Diplomacy Center will be a 40,000-square-foot state-of-the-art interactive museum and education center. Its goal, according to officials, is “to demonstrate the ways in which diplomacy and the work of U.S. diplomats in over 250 embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic missions are vital to our nation’s power, image, and ability to advance its interests around the globe.”

The opening ceremony marked the completion of the first two halls, located in a new glass-fronted building at the State Department’s corner entrance on 21st Street NW. The ground floor is named the Hillary Rodham Clinton Discover Diplomacy Hall. Below, down a broad staircase, is the Henry Kissinger Foundations of Diplomacy Hall.

In the near future, two more halls will be constructed in the old State Department building behind the new center. They will be called the James A. Baker III Diplomacy In Action Hall and the John R. Kerry Advisory Diplomacy Hall.

“We want to show how diplomacy promotes American values and advances U.S. foreign policy,” said Albright, who as secretary in 1999 joined with the late Senator Charles Mathias and Ambassador Stephen Low to approve the development of the museum’s nonprofit foundation board and the site of the museum on State Department property. Retired Ambassador Bagley agreed to become the project’s fundraiser and partnership coordinator. Almost all the funds for the center’s operations and exhibitions will be raised privately. Less than .03 percent is to come from public money.

In 2014, Albright, Kerry, Clinton, Kissinger, Baker and Powell made the shovel-ready project a reality with shovels of their own at the groundbreaking ceremony.

At the Jan. 10 opening reception, Clinton was received with cheers and loud applause by hundreds of State Department officials and guests, packed into the brand-new hall named for her. “I hope you have noticed the multi-transparent parts of this great hall,” Clinton joked, in a subtle reference to one of the themes of her just-ended presidential campaign.

“I’m just happy to appear here in person and not as an exhibit,” Albright said when she took the podium.

“Diplomacy is about people,” she continued. “It’s about relationships. We want the Diplomacy Center and Museum to tell the untold stories of diplomacy and the never-heard stories of the people involved.”

Part of the stories are the gifts and mementos that diplomats and the Department of State have gathered over the years, a notable example being the dozens of personal pins that Secretary Albright was known for wearing. Her pins, each with a specific meaning, became iconic and were exhibited at the Smithsonian and elsewhere. Albright told diplomats and reporters to “learn to read my pins.”

“But who’s getting all this stuff?” Albright said a petulant granddaughter asked her recently. As it turned out, the answer was easy. She announced that she was giving all her pins to the Center for Diplomacy.

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