“None Swifter Than These: 100 Years of Diplomatic Couriers” opens Sept. 14 at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. Developed by the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State, the exhibition is on view through Jan. 26, 2020.
In wartime and peacetime, the U.S. Diplomatic Courier Service carries the sensitive materials, equipment and information that make diplomacy possible. The exhibition’s title derives from the Greek historian Herodotus, who coined the phrase ‘none swifter than these,’ paying tribute to the speed and reliability of ancient Persian messengers.
The U.S. Diplomatic Courier Service traces its origins to the U.S. Army courier detachment (known as the “Silver Greyhounds”), established at the U.S. Embassy in Paris in December 1918 to support the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at the end of World War I. A century later, the Department of State’s 100 badged diplomatic couriers travel the globe safeguarding the nation’s secrets. Today’s diplomatic couriers constantly troubleshoot and innovate to ensure secure logistic supply chains while supervising the delivery of classified equipment and documents, as well as secure construction materials to nearly every nation where U.S. diplomats work.
Through authentic objects on loan from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Diplomacy Center, visitors can trace the evolution of shipping materials over the service’s 100 years of operation. The exhibition also presents Cold War-era surveillance devices (“bugs”) that were either used or discovered by U.S. security officers; the diary, passport and other personal effects of a 1918 diplomatic courier; and a 1936 diplomatic courier guide book, Course of the Silver Greyhound.
In support of the exhibition, the museum will host an after-hours lecture Wednesday, Sept. 18, from 6–8 p.m. John Brandt, a diplomatic courier since 1999 and chief of the Classified Pouch Branch at the U.S. Department of State, will discuss this fascinating branch of the department. Before joining the State Department, Brandt served as a U.S. Army Russian linguist in military intelligence and as a launch specialist on the Pershing II intermediate nuclear missile system. Lecture attendees can see the new exhibition before and after the lecture. Light refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to the public; advance registration is available through the museum’s website.
About the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum
The National Postal Museum is devoted to presenting the colorful and engaging history of the nation’s mail service and showcasing one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C., across from Union Station. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). For more information about the Smithsonian, call (202) 633-1000 or visit the museum website at postalmuseum.si.edu.
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