The U.S. Diplomacy Center (USDC) will host an exhibit for the month of June highlighting diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from 1918 to the present. The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) and its parent organizations – the Estonian American National Council (EANC), American Latvian Association (ALA) and Lithuanian American Council (LAC) – were invited by the Department of State to prepare a display depicting the history of the U.S.-Baltic relationship. The exhibit officially opens on May 30, 2018.
The exhibit consists of three panels, each covering one of the major periods in Baltic history and how the U.S. played a role in each era. The first panel shows the period starting from 1918, when the nations first declared independence and enjoyed over twenty years of freedom. The second panel starts in 1940 with the division of Europe and covers the Soviet era, ending with the first Baltic grassroots demonstrations for renewed freedom. The final period is from 1991 and the fall of the Soviet Union to the Baltic nations’ current status as members of NATO and significant players on the world stage. The exhibit will also include a display case with artifacts from the three time periods.
Visitors to the exhibit are able to access the USDC lobby via the entrance at 330 21st St NW. The displays are located in the back right corner of the lobby. Hours of access are Monday to Friday, 9:00-5:00 and the exhibit will be on display through June 28th. Groups of five or more people arriving together need to make an appointment; for more information, please contact Leslie Goodman, Nordic Baltic Public Diplomacy Desk Officer at 202-647-5624.
The space for the USDC was dedicated in 2000 by then Secretary Madeleine Albright. It was envisioned as a museum to “educate and inspire all visitors…showcas[ing] how diplomacy has shaped our nation’s history and how diplomacy continues to play a vital role in their lives,” according to its website at diplomacy.state.gov. The project has been supported by every former Secretary of State since Warren Christopher. Construction of the pavilion broke ground in September 2014 and was completed in January 2017, enabling completion of exhibition design and fabrication.
Credit for developing the U.S.-Baltic diplomacy exhibit is shared by members of JBANC, its parent organizations, and other supporters. The project was led by JBANC Managing Director Karl Altau, EANC Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey, ALA Museum Director Lilita Bergs, and LAC representative on the JBANC board Henry Gaidis. All were instrumental in gathering artifacts and photos, writing copy, and contributing to its design. A large number of artifacts in the display case came from the personal collection of Mr. Gaidis and from the Latvian Museum in Rockville, Maryland. The Estonian Archives in the U.S. were very generous in allowing access to their photo archives. Finally, the graphic displays would not have been possible without the talent and dedicated work of Estonian American graphic designer Kristina Jõgi of Baltimore.
JBANC will work with the State Department and Baltic embassies to find other locations for the exhibit once this showing closes. All involved look forward to sharing the work with as many interested parties as possible and hope to see a steady stream of visitors through the USDC to learn more about the history of U.S.-Baltic relations.