Read my pins, says Madeleine Albright

The Museum of Arts and Design in New York has made a very special exhibition on the US’ former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright’s diverse and notable collection of brooches. Through October 2010 you can see over 200 pins, many of which Secretary Albright wore to communicate a message during her diplomatic career, in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

Jewelry has always played a part in world affairs, expressing power, impressing people or forging alliances, but it was never used so eloquently as by Albright.

It all started when Madeleine Albright criticized Saddam Hussein in her role of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Saddam’s personal poet responded by calling her “an unparalleled serpent.” When deciding what to wear to their meeting, Albright chose to make a diplomatic statement by choosing a snake pin. Although her method of communication was new, her message was not. From that day forward, pins became part of Albright’s diplomatic signature.

Albright: Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal. Former president George H. W. Bush had been known for saying “Read my lips.” I began urging colleagues and reporters to “Read my pins.”

She has written her own catalogue to the exhibition, Read my pins, stories from a diplomat’s jewel. Her stories s behind her extensive pin collection, which includes flags, fruit, bugs, birds and almost everything else, are very amusing and humorous. Included are the antique eagle purchased to celebrate Albright’s appointment as secretary of state, the zebra pin she wore when meeting Nelson Mandela, and the Valentine’s Day heart forged by Albright’s five-year-old daughter.

This brooch, called Liberty, is made by Gijs Bakker for an earlier exhibition Brooching It Diplomatically; A Tribute to Madeleine Albright. The clocks are arranged so that Albright, looking down, as well as her visitor, looking up,  can both see when the time for their meeting is up.

Madeleine Albright talks about her pins


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