Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection
Closed: February 15 – June 1, 2010
This special exhibit featured more than 200 pins, many of which had become part of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s personal diplomatic arsenal. The exhibition examined the collection for its historic significance as well as the expressive power of jewelry to communicate through a style and language of its own.
The exhibit accompanied Secretary Albright's latest book, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box (HarperCollins). “I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal,” Secretary Albright says in the book. “While President George H.W. Bush had been known for saying ‘Read my lips,’ I began urging colleagues and reporters to ‘Read my pins.’” Both the book and the exhibit explore the stories behind her pins, their political and diplomatic significance and information on their designers.
Albright has an affinity for insect pins. When feeling good, she often wore a ladybug; but when delivering a sharp message, the pin of choice was a wasp or a bee.
Title: Brooching It Diplomatically: A Tribute to Madeleine Albright
Helen W. Drutt English, an authority on modern and contemporary crafts celebrated Albright’s diplomatic strategy for sending political messages by inviting over sixty jewelry artists from around the world to create pins that would send messages of their own. The results were shown in an exhibition that opened in Philadelphia, toured Europe and was hosted by MAD in 1999. Liberty’s clock-eyes are arranged so that the wearer, looking down, and the visitor, looking across, can both tell the right time.
Title: Breaking the Glass Ceiling
During a trip to Central Europe in 1996, Albright needed to confer privately with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Where better than the ladies’ room? Albright was proud to be the first woman to serve as secretary of state, and delighted when Clinton became one of her successors. This pin shows the glass ceiling shown in its ideal condition: shattered.
Title: King of the Beasts
The lion has served as a symbol of power since the days of ancient Greece. Thus, Syria’s formidable President Hafez al-Assad took considerable pride in the fact that, in Arabic, his name meant “lion.” For her first meeting with Assad, Albright wore this lion pin, thinking it might put the president in a more forthcoming frame of mind; it didn’t.
The seas are vast and contain creatures of every description. Albright often used a snail or a crab to show impatience with the pace of a discussion. A many-tentacled octopus might be employed to indicate the complexity of a subject. When negotiating with Canada about the right to harvest salmon stocks, Albright chose clarity over subtlety and wore a fish.
Title: “It Would Be an Honor”
In 2006, on a visit to New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina, Albright was approached by a young man who gave her a small box. “My mother loved you,” he explained, “and she knew that you liked and wore pins. My father gave her this one for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. She died as a result of Katrina, and my father and I think she would have wanted you to have it. It would be an honor to her if you would accept it.”
Albright wears the Katrina pin as a reminder that jewelry’s greatest value comes not from intrinsic materials or brilliant designs but from the emotions we invest in them. The most cherished attributes are not those that dazzle the eye but those that recall to the mind the face and spirit of a loved one.