|By Carolyn Noon
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — An exhibit featuring a vast pin and brooch collection owned and worn by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright opened May 11 at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (NCSML) in Cedar Rapids and will continue to be on display through Oct. 27.
The 285-piece collection spans more than a century of jewelry design and includes fine antiques, family heirlooms, vintage costume jewelry and pieces by noted jewelry designers, as well as a few dime store finds and gifts from friends and admirers. Albright was known for using her pins to convey a mood or political message while meeting with world leaders and heads of state.
“These pins and stories are incredibly dynamic,” said Gail Naughton, NCSML President/CEO. “It’s an extensive collection.”
The traveling exhibit includes personal anecdotes and photos and accompanies Albright’s New York Times best-selling book, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box, in which she wrote, “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.’”
The iconic fashion statement of wearing a pin prominently on her left shoulder against a simple dress or tailored suit jacket began to take on special meaning when Albright donned a snake pin to meet Saddam Hussein after the government-controlled Iraqi press called her an ’unparalleled serpent.”
For a meeting with Nelson Mandela, she picked a vintage zebra pin. After the Cubans shot down two U.S. civilian planes in 1996 she was seen wearing another snake pin, this one from the 1860s.
Albright, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1996 and confirmed by a U.S. Senate vote, was the first woman to be Secretary of State, serving from 1997 to 2001. On the day she was sworn in she chose to wear an antique diamond eagle pin, circa 1890.
Albright began her political career as a campaign fundraiser, served as a legislative liaison for the National Security Council and was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (UN). In 2001, she founded the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and is a member of the Board of the Council on Foreign Relations. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barak Obama in May 2012.
Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, (now the Czech Republic) on May 15, 1937, Albright came to America with her parents in 1948. She has strong ties to her homeland, its history and culture and has been an avid supporter of the Cedar Rapids Czech Museum. Consequently, she is also on the NCSML National Advisory Board, and paid a personal visit to the museum on May 17-18 to note the opening of her exhibit.
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids, is open Mondays through Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. The cost of admission is adults, $10; seniors, $9; students (with ID) and active military, $5; youth, 6-13, $3; and children five and under, free.
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library