Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a forthright and tenacious negotiator, loved to communicate her mood and intentions in a more subtle way – through the brooches she wore.
Now New York s Museum of Arts & Design is presenting the first ever exhibition of her pin collection, featuring some 200 of her favorites including the golden snake pin she wore to a meeting on Iraq after Saddam Hussein s government called her a serpent.
Albright found that what she wore and how she presented herself had a lot of interpretive meaning to those she was with, said Holly Hotchner, the museum s director. The pins became an added way that she communicated as secretary of state.
Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection, scheduled to open in September, comes 10 years after the museum presented Brooching It Diplomatically, a show of pins created by contemporary artists inspired by the ones Albright wore.
The nation s 64th secretary of state became so famous for her pin diplomacy that when she wore a necklace to a nonpolitical event where she was the featured speaker, the organizer insisted the secretary go out and buy a brooch before taking the podium. Albright, now a professor at Georgetown University, is said to have complied.
She started acquiring pins because of their inherent messages, their whimsical and pictorial quality, said David Revere McFadden, the museum s chief curator. It s not about jewels and gems, it s about jewelry as a communication device.
The collection is diverse, ranging from a series of pins dealing with Americana – including flags and eagles – to ones with flora, fauna and insect themes. She always brought a selection with her so she could be ready for any situation.
For instance, Albright chose to wear a bee pin whenever she felt talks amounted to something like a sting, McFadden said.
It s a very gentle way of saying to whomever she is speaking to: Listen carefully because I m kind of telling you where I think this conversation is going, he said.
When she thought negotiations would likely go well, she would wear a balloon pin. Another pin, made of stainless steel, shows the head of Lady Liberty with two watch faces for eyes, one of which is upside down. The pin allows both her and others to check the time.
Albright frequently wore a dove pin given to her by Leah Rabin, wife of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995 by a radical opposed to Rabin s role in peace efforts.
Later, Leah Rabin presented Albright with a matching dove necklace, McFadden said, telling her, In your job one dove of peace is not going to be enough. The necklace is not part of the exhibition.
The curators said the collection is not particularly valuable in terms of the jewelry itself. Many of the pins were given to Albright as mementos or are mass-produced, inexpensive pieces that she picked up during her diplomatic globe-trotting.
The exhibition, from Sept. 30 though Jan. 31, 2010, will travel to several as yet undetermined cities. It will be accompanied by a book, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat s Jewel Box, written by Albright.
While planning the show, the museum told Albright she might not get the pins back for two years because of the exhibition s traveling schedule. Instead of being concerned, the curators said, she saw it as an opportunity – to buy more pins.