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It’s All in the Smithsonian Details

Beatrice Camp

(Courtesy, Beatrice Camp)

Editor’s note: In a new (Jan-Feb 2014) Foreign Service Journal article, Bea Camp tells about the value of her detail to the Smithsonian Institution, expanding on her talk at the 3 December 2014 PDAA lunch program. Below is an excerpt and link to the entire article.

Today, thanks to the establishment of a State Department detail position at the Smithsonian in 2009, State bureaus and posts are able to take greater advantage of its international presence to reach foreign audiences. Whether pursuing conservation in Burma, building a Spark!Lab in Kyiv or bringing Hungarian musicians to the Folklife Festival, the Smithsonian’s international engagement complements the State Department’s work in education, culture, the environment and scientific cooperation.

I was fascinated to find that the position I held for two years has historical roots. Marc Pachter, who later became director of the National Portrait Gallery, served as the Smithsonian liaison to the U.S. Information Agency in the 1980s. And in 2002, the Bureau of International Information Programs detailed Martin Manning to the National Portrait Gallery to work with Smithsonian Institution staff on the American Rooms Project, envisioned by then-Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Charlotte Beers as an interactive exhibit highlighting American themes.

In my case, the detail provided lots of leeway, so I focused on helping State colleagues take advantage of Smithsonian resources for the benefit of overseas audiences. This mission set me on a path of discovery that ranged from jazz to mobile apps to wildlife conservation. From the Smithsonian side, I was regularly consulted on international issues, with my China experience proving especially welcome.

The goals of the two institutions are often symbiotic. As the world’s largest museum and research complex, the Smithsonian Institution is focusing on greater engagement with world audiences, particularly non-elite and youth groups, while the Department of State is eager to use the Smithsonian’s expertise to enhance the dissemination of information about the United States to overseas audiences.

The full text is found on the Foreign Service Journal Web site.

 

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