The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2014 - page 42

Beatrice Camp, a Senior Foreign Service officer, was on detail from
the Department of State to the Smithsonian Institution as senior
adviser to the under secretary for history, art and culture from 2011
to 2013. Since joining the Foreign Service in 1983, she has served in
Shanghai, Chiang Mai, Budapest, Stockholm, Bangkok, Beijing and
Washington, D.C.
The potential for cultural and scientific diplomacy via the State-Smithsonian
partnership is, as the Smithsonian brand states, “Seriously Amazing.”
s I was hanging pictures in my
office at the Smithsonian Institu-
tion at the beginning of my assign-
ment there in 2011, a new col-
league stopped by to welcome me.
“Chiang Mai… Chiang Mai…”
she pondered, as I placed photos
from previous posts on the walls.
“I think we have forest plots there.”
And so I began to glimpse the
extent of the Smithsonian Institu-
tion’s international reach, far beyond the familiar museums on
the Mall.
Founded with a bequest from an Englishman, James Smith-
son, the Smithsonian has always had a global perspective and
international reach in its mission to advance the “increase and
diffusion of knowledge.” In the words of former Secretary S. Dil-
lon Ripley, “The pathways followed by knowledge and culture do
not observe national boundaries.”
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 pres-
ence 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 interna-
tional 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 Smithson-
ian 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
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 regu-
larly consulted on international issues, with my China experi-
ence proving especially welcome.
A Symbiotic Relationship
The goals of the two institutions are often symbiotic. As the
world’s largest museum and research complex, the Smithson-
ian 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. Here are just a few examples of such
• After the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Smithson-
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