museum diplomacy

Her guests include Chinese ambassador Cui Tiankai, who has called Bao Bao Washington’s other Chinese ambassador, acknowledging a longstanding practice of “panda diplomacy” where China would gift or loan pandas as a message of cute goodwill between two countries.

The museum has “a very broad ambition in terms of programming and our audience,” says director Henry Kim. It aims to introduce the art, material culture and performing arts of Islamic civilizations – with artifacts largely from the Aga Khan’s family collections, spanning more than 1,000 years of history from Europe to India, and from manuscripts to contemporary dance.

Over the course of six weeks during the height of the Cold War, almost three million Soviets visited an exhibition that celebrated America. American kitchens, American art, American cars, and most especially American capitalism. The American National Exhibition in Moscow was a full-court press to convince the Soviet people of American superiority.

Most outsiders know the United Arab Emirates from Dubai’s accomplishments in international commerce, tourism, and indoor skiing. What is less known is that Abu Dhabi is investing a great deal of money in education, medicine, art, and music as a new kind of cultural diplomacy.

The fictional archaeologist Indiana Jones has long enthralled movie audiences, taking on assorted villains in quests to find mythical treasures, with some limited help from the government. Minus any bullwhips, the real-life U.S. State Department works with other federal departments in a journey to protect important archaeological sites and ancient treasures in the face of conflict, according to professional archaeologists Morag Kersel and Christina Luke in their new book "U.S. Cultural Diplomacy and Archaeology: Soft Power, Hard Heritage" (Routledge, 2012).

Does this do what it says on the tin and does it matter if it doesn't? At the start of the V&A's latest exhibition you're led to believe that the objects on display will tell a particular story. This, according to a board at the entrance, is the story of diplomatic gift-exchange between the Tudor and Stuart courts and their counterparts in Russia – then known as Muscovy.

For an artifact with such an awesome legacy, the Cyrus Cylinder is remarkably unprepossessing. It looks like a small loaf of rye bread from which someone has broken off a chunk. Yet this nine-inch long piece of baked clay inscribed with cuneiform script — which begins a five-city tour of the United States in Washington this week -- has inspired religious and political thinkers from ancient times through the drafters of the US Constitution and the founders of modern-day Israel.

March 6, 2013

This week the International Council Of Museums' sold-out conference Working Internationally shows how museums are looking out beyond the shores of the British Isles. The big nationals are, of course, doing extensive international work. The V&A tours exhibitions to India, China, Japan and the USA, amongst others.

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