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View of The John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room

The Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State are official entertainment spaces for use of the Secretary of State, Vice President and Cabinet members. Located in the Harry S Truman building in Washington, DC, the Diplomatic Reception Rooms house a museum-quality collection of furnishings that highlight our nation’s history and heritage while providing the setting to engage foreign dignitaries. The rooms and the collection–all gifts of the American people—benefit American statesmanship by providing a background for modern diplomacy. Today, the 42 rooms contain 5000 masterpieces of fine and decorative arts valued over $100,000,000 from the founding period of our country, 1740-1840. Each year, these rooms are host to more than 300 official events and are visited by more than 60,000 people. No tax dollars are expended to maintain and preserve the collection. Instead, the collection is funded by charitable contributions of private citizens, foundations and corporations.

Contents

Mission

The mission of the curatorial office of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms is to employ the fine arts in support of the diplomatic arts by providing an elegant and historically evocative suite of rooms within which American and foreign leaders can establish friendships, exchange ideas, and tend to the aspirations and afflictions of a dynamic world.

History

In 1961, when the Diplomatic Reception Rooms first opened, the modern spaces were sparsely appointed with government-issued furniture. Shortly after the rooms were used for the first time, Mr. Clement Conger began the Americana Project, which transformed the modern spaces over the span of 30 years into period settings reflecting American architecture of 1740-1840.

Collections

Masterpieces of American fine and decorative arts from the collection include paintings, sculpture, furniture, silver and glassware. Chosen for their historical associations and quality of craftsmanship, these objects demonstrate the richness of American’s history to diplomatic guests. More than 380 objects in the collection are associated with historic events relating to the founding of the country and to leading figures of the colonial and republican periods.

Among these national treasures is this Tambour Writing Table, where on September 3, 1783 Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay signed the Treaty of Paris (1783), establishing peace with Great Britain following the American Revolutionary War. This diplomatic achievement, the first for the young republic, is beautifully depicted in the collection’s unfinished painting, after Benjamin West’s 1782 original, “The American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Negotiations with Great Britain.” Also in the collection are pieces of hand-wrought silver by the patriot-silversmith Paul Revere, porcelain wares from George Washington’s Society of Cincinnati and Martha Washington’s States Services, as well as the companion portraits of John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams, 1816, by artist Charles Robert Leslie.

Visiting the Collections

Guided tours of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms are available by appointment. Admission is free. Guided tours take visitors through the Edward Vason Jones Memorial Hall, Entrance Halland Gallery, John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room, Thomas Jefferson Reception Room, and Benjamin Franklin Dining Room. Tours can be scheduled online at https://receptiontours.state.gov

Publications

  • Conger, Clement E. and Alexandra W. Rollins. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991.
  • Ward, Gerald W.R., ed. Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms U.S. Department of State. New York: Rizzoli, 2003.

Further reading

  • www.MuseumsUSA.org
  • Traveling Exhibitions Gail F. Serfaty, Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Sack Heritage Group. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
  • Educational Programs & Activities United States Senate Youth Program Forty-Seventh Annual Washington Week, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-17
  • Visiting the Collections William Whitman, Washington, D.C. Off the Beaten Path, Fourth Edition: A Guide to Unique Places. www.googlebooks.com. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
  • For Kids Ages 12 and Up Beth Rubin, Frommer's Washington D.C. with Kids, Part Three. www.googlebooks.com. Retrieved 2009-09-17.

External links

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