From May 2019 – July 2019, the United States Diplomacy Center is hosting the Bureau of Consular Affairs exhibit, “From Pirates to Passports: A Timeless Commitment to Service.” On May 28th, Secretary Mike Pompeo spoke in the Diplomacy Center at the opening of an exhibit by the Bureau of Consular Affairs. He highlighted that the exhibition “tells the story of our timeless commitment to serving the American people. Consular Affairs’ mission spans across the globe and the centuries dating from before the signing of the U.S. Constitution down to today.”

This exhibit celebrates the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the long history of consular service to the American people.  The exhibition, includes photos, stories, and historical artifacts showcasing the evolution of consular affairs from its inception to its global presence today. Later this year, a digital version of the exhibit with expanded interactive content will be available to the public.

On display are the stories of consuls from the earliest days of the republic to the present, and of the citizens they helped, including in crisis.  U.S. passports trace the transformation of the iconic document from a written memo requesting safe passage to the state-of-the-art, secure passport book produced today.  Similarly, the exhibit follows the evolution of visa regulations over centuries to adapt to an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Specific artifacts within the exhibition include passports of famous persons; a logbook from U.S. Consulate General Marseille documenting the consulate’s passport services to hundreds of U.S. citizens, including Gertrude Stein and Varian Fry, fleeing Nazi-controlled Europe during World War II; and historic “tools of the trade” used to produce visas, including a visa machine, visa plates, and wax seals. (Source: Bureau of Consular Affairs Press Unit)

From Pirates to Passports: A Timeless Commitment to Service
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State and Carl. C. Risch, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs looking at some of the passports provided by me for the Consular Affairs exhibition “From Pirates to Passports” in Washington D.C.

For me, it was a fantastic experience to be part of this event by assisting the exhibition with my knowledge and pictures from my collection. I am looking very much forward to see the upcoming online exhibition. And, not often you got a Thank you letter from the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs. Much appreciated!

The United States Diplomacy Center tells the story of the history, practice, and challenges of American diplomacy. Through exhibitions and programs, we inspire the American public to discover diplomacy and how it impacts their lives every day. The United States Diplomacy Center is a museum at the U.S. Department of State currently under development. The glass pavilion at the 21st Street entrance to the Department is the beginning of what will become a dynamic space fully open to the public with permanent and guest exhibitions and education programs. The museum is scheduled to be fully accessible in 2022. Our preview exhibit opens this November.

Allyson Berri from the Diplomatic Courier made another great article on the exhibition.

I also had the chance to visit the United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, to meet with Consul General Timothy Scherer and Aja Stefanon (ACS). We had a brief discussion about the consular service and passport history. I told the story of William Palfrey. In early consular service days, to become a Consul could be quite dangerous. William Palfrey was lost at sea on his way to post. So, on October 2, 1781, Thomas Barclay of Pennsylvania was appointed Consul to France and send instead. No American consuls began their service until 1781. Aja Stafanon gave me a quick look into the passport processing at the embassy from the customers perspective. All very interesting. A big -Thank You- to Karin, who made all this possible!

Consul General Scherer, Aja Stefanon, Tom Topol - US Embassy Bangkok, March 2019
Consul General Scherer, Aja Stefanon, Tom Topol – US Embassy Bangkok, March 2019

 

Let Pass Or Die – A new Book about old passports and passport history