The National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) based at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., has announced the opening of a brand new exhibit featuring iconic pins worn by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. The exhibit is titled Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection and can be accessed and enjoyed virtually through the Museum’s new online exhibit.
Sometimes demure and understated, sometimes outlandish and outspoken, these pins were used as gentle implements of statecraft.National Museum of American Diplomacy On New Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection Online Exhibit
The exhibit features more than 200 pins, most of the costume variety, which Secretary Albright wore to communicate a message before, during, and after her years of public service, including the years she led the Department of State, from 1997 to 2001. Read more about Secretary Albright’s legacy and tenure as Secretary of State here.
Can pins be more than a fashion statement and send non-verbal messages? According to the museum, yes. One pin in the featured collection known as the “serpent pin” tells the story of Albright’s meeting with Iraqi officials in 1997. As NMAD explains, “When U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright criticized Saddam Hussein, his poet-in-residence responded by calling her ‘an unparalleled serpent.’ Shortly thereafter, when preparing to meet with Iraqi officials, Albright decided to make a diplomatic statement by wearing a snake pin (even though she did not like snakes). Although her method of communication was new, her message was as old as the American Revolution – Don’t Tread on Me!”
From the 1990s through today, Albright is still sending messages with her pins, even during moments of collective national grief. Recently, at the funeral of the late former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Albright wore the Great Seal pin. The Great Seal of the United States was symbolic in its message, for it is the Secretary of State who is custodian of this sacred national symbol. The seal is impressed upon documents such as treaties and commissions. A similar pin that will be featured in the NMAD online exhibit is “The Great Seal of the United States Book Locket and Pin,” designed by Ann Hand. Another is the “Ode to the U.S. Armed Forces” pin, designed by Mina Lyles, and given to Secretary Albright from Mary Jo Myers, wife of General Richard Myers.
Currently, the exhibit is only available online but according to the museum, the pins and other exhibits will be available for in-person public viewing when the museum opens fully which is expected to happen in 2024. This latest exhibit seeks to educate the public on U.S. diplomatic history. “Sometimes demure and understated, sometimes outlandish and outspoken, these pins were used as gentle implements of statecraft. Their stories and messages reflect the Secretary’s sense of humor and her humanity and are visual educational tools of cultural diplomacy,” according to the exhibit website.
Learn how you can support the ongoing work of the National Museum of American Diplomacy by visiting: https://readmypins.state.gov/donate/. Follow the museum on , , and for the latest updates.
About the Author: Rene Moraida is a DipNote Blogger and Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs’ Office of Global Social Media at the U.S. Department of State.