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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Heritage Assets


Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services
Report
December 16, 2013

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The Department has collections of art objects, furnishings, books, and buildings that are considered heritage or multi-use heritage assets. These collections are housed in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, senior staff offices in the Secretary's suite, offices, reception areas, conference rooms, the cafeteria and related areas, and embassies throughout the world. The items have been acquired as donations, are on loan from the owners, or were purchased using gift and appropriated funds. The assets are classified into eight categories: the Diplomatic Reception Rooms Collection, Art Bank Program, Art in Embassies Program, Cultural Heritage Collection, Library Rare & Special Book Collection, the Secretary of State's Register of Culturally Significant Property, the U.S. Diplomacy Center, and the Blair House. Items in the Register of Culturally Significant Property category are classified as multi-use heritage assets due to their use in general government operations.

Diplomatic Reception Rooms Collection

In 1961, the State Department's Office of Fine Arts began the privately-funded Americana Project to remodel and redecorate the 42 Diplomatic Reception Rooms - including the offices of the Secretary of State - on the seventh and eighth floors of the Harry S Truman Building. The Secretary of State, the President, and Senior Government Officials use the rooms for official functions promoting American values through diplomacy. The rooms reflect American art and architecture from the time of our country's founding and its formative years, 1740 - 1840. The rooms also contain one of the most important collections of early Americana in the nation, with over 5,000 objects, including museum-quality furniture, rugs, paintings, and silver. These items have been acquired through donations or purchases funded through gifts from private citizens, foundations, and corporations. No tax dollars have been used to acquire or maintain the collection. There are three public tours each day.

Photo showing the John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, 8th Floor, Harry S Truman Building, Washington, D.C.

The John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, 8th Floor, Harry S Truman Building, Washington, D.C. Department of State

Art Bank Program

The Art Bank Program was established in 1984 to acquire artworks that could be displayed throughout the Department's offices and annexes. The works of art are displayed in staff offices, reception areas, conference rooms, the cafeteria, and related public areas. The collection consists of original works on paper (watercolors and pastels) as well as limited edition prints, such as lithographs, woodcuts, intaglios, and silk-screens. These items are acquired through purchases funded by contributions from each participating bureau.

Photo showing Art Bank work Photo showing Art Bank work

Art Bank works include "Something Intimate" (2010), Bruno Andrade, acrylic (left) and "Flora III (red)" (2007), Nate Cassie, woodcut (right).

Rare & Special Book Collection

In recent years, the Ralph J. Bunche Library has identified books that require special care or preservation. Many of these publications have been placed in the Rare Books and Special Collections Room, which is located adjacent to the Reading Room. Among the treasures is a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicles, which was printed in 1493; volumes signed by Thomas Jefferson; and books written by Foreign Service authors.

Cultural Heritage Collection

The Cultural Heritage Collection, which is managed by the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, Office of Residential Design and Cultural Heritage, is responsible for identifying and maintaining cultural objects owned by the Department in its properties abroad. The collections are identified based upon their historic importance, antiquity, or intrinsic value.

Diplomacy Center

The U.S. Diplomacy Center will be a unique education and exhibition venue at the Department of State that will explore the history, practice and challenges of U.S. diplomacy. It will be a place that fosters a greater understanding of the role of U.S. diplomacy, past, present and future, and will be an educational resource for students and teachers in the United States and around the globe. Exhibitions and programs will inspire visitors to make diplomacy a part of their lives. The Diplomacy Center is located within the Bureau of Public Affairs, and actively collects artifacts for exhibitions.

Photo showing New Delhi Chancery, built in the 1950s. It was the first major embassy building project approved in the Eisenhower years. The Chancery was designed by master architect Edward Durell Stone, who captured history and fantasy in a memorable symbol of the United States' commitment to India after its independence. The Chancery expresses the characteristic American preference for efficiency and straightforwardness.

New Delhi Chancery, built in the 1950s, was the first major embassy building project approved in the Eisenhower years. The Chancery was designed by master architect Edward Durell Stone, who captured history and fantasy in a memorable symbol of the United States' commitment to India after its independence. The Chancery expresses the characteristic American preference for efficiency and straightforwardness. Department of State/OBO

Secretary of State's Register
of Culturally Significant
Property

The Secretary of State's Register of Culturally Significant Property was established in January 2001 to recognize the Department's owned properties overseas that have historical, architectural, or cultural significance. Properties in this category include chanceries, consulates, and residences. All these properties are used predominantly in general government operations and are thus classified as multi-use heritage assets. Financial information for multi-use heritage assets is presented in the principal statements. The register is managed by the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, Office of Residential Design and Cultural Heritage.

Art in Embassies Program

The Art in Embassies Program was established in 1964 to promote national pride and the distinct cultural identity of America's arts and its artists. The program, which is managed by the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, provides original U.S. works of art for the representational rooms of United States ambassadorial residences worldwide. The works of art were purchased or are on loan from individuals, organizations, or museums.

Blair House

Photo showing the Lincoln Room of Blair House that displays Civil War-era artifacts from the family collection, including rare political cartoons and prints, a Mathew Brady photograph, and documents signed by Lincoln.

Honoring the close friendship between President Abraham Lincoln and the Blairs, the Lincoln Room of Blair House displays Civil War-era artifacts from the family collection, including rare political cartoons and prints, a Mathew Brady photograph, and documents signed by Lincoln. Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Composed of four historic landmark buildings owned by GSA, Blair House, the President's Guest House, operates under the stewardship of the Department of State's Office of the Chief of Protocol and has accommodated official guests of the President of the United States since 1942. In FY 2012, these buildings were added to the Secretary's Register of Culturally Significant Property for their important role in the U.S. history and the conduct of diplomacy over time. Its many elegant rooms are furnished with collections of predominantly American and English fine and decorative arts, historical artifacts, other cultural objects, rare books, and archival materials documenting the Blair family and buildings history from 1824 to the present. Objects are acquired via purchase, donation or transfer through the private non-profit Blair House Restoration Fund; transfers may also be received through the State Department's Office of Fine Arts and Office of the Chief of Protocol. Collections are managed by the Office of the Curator at Blair House, which operates under the Office of Fine Arts.

 




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