Exhibition: Read My Pins
The Madeleine Albright Collection
During her career, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ‘59, famously used her jewelry to convey diplomatic messages. From June 9 through July 20, 2014, the Davis Museum will present the New England premiere of the exhibition Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection, which reveals an intriguing story of American history and foreign policy as told through Secretary Albright’s jeweled pins.
“I am delighted to bring this collection to my alma mater,” said Madeleine Albright, who studied political science and has since launched the Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley. “Wellesley was one of the first places that gave me the opportunity to engage with global politics, develop my political views, and explore creative ways to express those views--so it’s only fitting to bring pins and politics back to Wellesley.”
On June 16, Secretary Albright will give a talk and book signing at Wellesley. Read My Pins: a conversation with Madeleine Albright '59 and Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly, will be held at the College’s Alumnae Hall. The event is free and open to the general public.
In 1997, Albright was named the first female Secretary of State and 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, Albright became known for wearing brooches that purposefully conveyed her views about the situation at hand. “I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal” Secretary Albright has 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.’"
Organized by the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, this unique traveling exhibition features more than 200 pins, many of which Secretary Albright wore to communicate a message or a mood during her diplomatic tenure. Sparkling with Albright’s wit and energy, the collection is notable for its historic significance as well as the expressive power of jewelry and its ability to communicate through a style and language of its own.
The collection that Secretary Albright cultivated is distinctive and democratic—sometimes demure and understated, sometimes outlandish and outspoken—spanning more than a century of jewelry design and including fascinating pieces from across the globe. The works on view are chosen for their symbolic value, and while some are fine antiques, many are costume jewelry. Together the pieces in this expressive collection explore the power of jewelry to communicate through a style and language of its own.
Over the years, Secretary Albright’s pins became a part of her public persona, and they chart the course of an extraordinary journey, carving out a visual path through international and cultural diplomacy. A highlight of the exhibition will be the brooch that began Secretary Albright’s unusual use of pins as a tool in her diplomatic arsenal. After Saddam Hussein’s government-controlled press referred to her as a serpent in 1994, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Albright wore a golden snake brooch pinned to her suit for her next meeting on Iraq. Read My Pins will feature 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.
The exhibition also showcases a group of Americana, which is at the center of the Madeleine Albright collection. One of her most original pieces is a pin made especially for her. The silver brooch 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, Read My Pins explores Albright’s ongoing impact on the field of jewelry design and collecting.
About Madeleine Albright
Madeleine K. Albright is Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and Chair of Albright Capital Management LLC, an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets. She was the 64th Secretary of State of the United States. Dr. Albright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Obama on May 29, 2012.
In 1997, Dr. Albright was named the first female Secretary of State and became, at that time, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. As Secretary of State, Dr. Albright reinforced America’s alliances, advocated for democracy and human rights, and promoted American trade, business, labor, and environmental standards abroad. From 1993 to 1997, Dr. Albright served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and was a member of the President’s Cabinet. From 1989 to 1992, she served as President of the Center for National Policy. Previously, she was a member of President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council and White House staff and served as Chief Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Edmund S. Muskie.
Dr. Albright is a Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She chairs both the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Pew Global Attitudes Project and serves as president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation. She serves on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board, a group tasked with providing the Secretary of Defense with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of defense policy. Dr. Albright also serves on the Boards of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Institute and the Center for American Progress. In 2009, Dr. Albright was asked by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to Chair a Group of Experts focused on developing NATO’s New Strategic Concept.
Dr. Albright is the author of five New York Times bestsellers: her autobiography, Madam Secretary: A Memoir (2003); The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (2006); Memo to the President: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership (2008); Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box (2009); and Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 (2012).
Dr. Albright received a B.A. with Honors from Wellesley College, and Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Columbia University’s Department of Public Law and Government, as well as a Certificate from its Russian Institute.
On view in the Bronfman & Chandler Galleries, timed tickets are required for this special exhibition. Available now, tickets are $18 for adults, and $9 for seniors (65+). Children (18 and under), and all students with a valid ID are free. To purchase tickets, please click here.
A beautifully illustrated book Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box by Harper Collins publishers accompanies the exhibition and will be available for sale at the Davis. The publication, authored by Secretary Albright, reveals the full story behind the collection, and illustrates its best examples.
Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection is presented with major support from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28 Fund for World Cultures and Leadership, with additional funding provided by Wellesley College Friends of Art.
The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, with generous support for the original exhibition provided by Bren Simon and for the exhibition catalogue by St. John Knits.
Photo credit: Serpent pin, circa 1860. Designer unknown. Photo by John Bigelow Taylor.