Editor’s note: We wrote this piece a few weeks ago to note the recent launch of our work with the National Museum of American Diplomacy, celebrating the storied pin collection of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Yesterday, we learned with sorrow of her passing from cancer at 84. We publish this piece with condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues, and hope that our work serves as a testament to her legacy as one of the great women of American diplomacy.
Translating the experience of strolling through a museum to the confines of a web browser is a challenge museums have been tackling for the past decade or so. In the shadow of the pandemic and with a renewed commitment to equity and access, bringing the art, artifacts, and stories of culture and history to life online is now more than ever paramount for these institutions.
This was our challenge when we partnered with our long-time client the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) and the Albright Stonebridge Group last year to bring the exhibit Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection to the web.
Not everyone has the opportunity to travel to D.C. and visit its myriad museums. But as a museum of American diplomacy, NMAD seeks to help all Americans learn about the complex history of international relations, negotiations, and the United States’ place in history. They achieve this through educational programs, events, and many different exhibits, some focused on the minutiae and others on the big picture.
Read My Pins tells the story of how Madeleine Albright, the first woman Secretary of State, became known for wearing pins to express her mood and to send messages to foreign leaders. In 2022, it’s hard to imagine a Secretary of State using something as subtle as jewelry to assert her position, such as when she wore a serpent pin to meet with Iraqi officials in the late 90s, but Albright was both a trailblazer and highly effective at her job. Whether you agree with her politics or not, she both wore her heart on her sleeve and helped pave the way for women in government, tenaciously holding her own in rooms of only men.
The design of the site needed to echo her personality and position: bold, dignified, stately, and elegant. We were fortunate that the Albright Stonebridge Group has fantastic photography of all of the pins, so even online visitors can see the details of each design, like the beautiful and intricate bee pin she wore to reflect her mood when wrangling with Yasser Arafat on the need for compromise in the Middle East. High quality imagery and engaging stories are a must-have for any museum taking an exhibit online.
We designed the site to mimic a gallery, with a guided introduction to orient first-time visitors and take them on a detailed journey through three of the Secretary’s most recognizable pins. Folks who know what they’re looking for can bypass the first set of stories and dive directly into the rest of the collection. In the future, NMAD plans to build on the exhibit, adding educational resources, photos, and videos from Albright’s time in civil service.