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New Exhibition Takes Visitors into Madeleine Albright's Jewelry Box
Liberty. Gijs Bakker (Netherlands), 1997. Photo by John Bigelow Taylor.
WASHINGTON, DC.- A traveling exhibition of jewelry from the personal collection of Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, will open at the Smithsonian Castle June 18. “Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection” features more than 200 pins, many of which Secretary Albright wore to communicate messages during her diplomatic tenure. The exhibit examines the collection for its historical significance and the expressive power of jewelry and its ability to communicate through a style and language of its own. The exhibition will be on view through Oct. 11.

When she was named the first female Secretary of State in 1997, Albright became, at that time, the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. While serving under President Bill Clinton, first as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and then as Secretary of State, she became known for wearing pins that conveyed her views about the situation at hand.

“I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal,” Secretary Albright said. “While President George H.W. Bush had been known for saying ‘Read my lips,’ I began urging colleagues and reporters to ‘Read my pins.’”

The exhibition accompanies Secretary Albright’s latest book, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box (2009; HarperCollins). The exhibition and the book explore the stories behind the pins and their historical and artistic significance.

A highlight of the exhibition includes a brooch that began Albright’s use of pins as a diplomatic tool. After Saddam Hussein’s press referred to her as an “unparalleled serpent,” she wore a golden snake brooch pinned to her suit for her next meeting on Iraq. The exhibition features the famous snake brooch among many other pins with similar stories—some associated with important world events, others gifts from international leaders or valued friends. In addition, the exhibition showcases a group of Americana pins that are at the center of Secretary Albright’s collection. One pin made for her is a silver brooch that shows the head of Lady Liberty with two watch faces for eyes, one of which is upside down—allowing both her and her visitor to see when it is time for an appointment to end. As demonstrated in this clever work, the exhibit also explores Secretary Albright’s ongoing impact on the field of jewelry design and collecting.

“Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection” was organized by the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. The exhibition was on view at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark.

Washington | Smithsonian Castle | Madeleine Albright |




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