Albright exhibit shines at IMA

[imagebrowser id=9]If there’s anything Butler students learned last year from Madeleine Albright’s speech at Clowes Memorial Hall, it’s that she is one strong-willed woman.

The latest exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, “Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection,” reinstates this in the description of each pin and the collection of quotes from the former Secretary of State scattered artfully along the walls.

Spanning three rooms, the exhibit highlights Albright’s most important pins, collections of specific themes of pins and one room includes a copy of the actual book by Albright, “Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewelry Box” and a television showing various clips of her interviews about her pins.

It’s an odd concept to think about how much effect jewelry could have on American diplomacy, but it’s one of the many things that make the exhibit so endearing and Albright so distinct. This is proven by the sheer difference in the people walking in the entrance. Moms are accompanied by young daughters they lift to point out special pins, and elderly couples smile as they reminisce about certain stories the pins bring to mind.

There are certainly many stories. There are specially-made pins from admirers, presents from Great Britain and Canada and even a pin made from a piece of the Berlin Wall.

One woman became so excited, almost yelling, “She’s a Star Trek fan,” after reading the description under Albright’s alien pin.

“It just makes it so personal, to know why she wore the pins and what they meant to her,” Jennifer Bradbury, visiting with her mother-in-law, Dorothy, an Indianapolis resident,  said.

The elder Bradbury agreed.

“It’s marvelous,” she said. “I feel such a connection, because I love my jewelry just as much. And I’m not even in her party!”

The connections are easy to make, as the stories behind the pins are often personal, clever and at times emotional. There’s a pin representing a shattered glass ceiling she wore while visiting Hillary Clinton, and an Interceptor missile pin she wore during a meeting with a foreign minister of Russia, who, after asking Albright if that was one of the American missiles, received the reply, “Yes. We make them small, so you better be ready to negotiate.”

The exhibit includes a quote from Albright stating that after awhile, she became so anxious of the message her pins gave, that she would often pick them out the night before.

It wasn’t her imagination, the exhibit says that Vladimir Putin remarked to former President Bill Clinton that he and his ministers always made note of what pin Albright chose to wear that day.

However, there are clearly many pins that hold close places in Albright’s heart from her descriptions of them, such as a clay heart from one of her daughters and a piece given to her during her visit to post-Katrina New Orleans in 2006. A young man came up to her with a beautiful pin, telling her that it was his mother’s, who had loved Albright and her pins and had recently died in Katrina. The young man said that it had been a 50th wedding anniversary present from his father, and both men had agreed that she would have wanted Albright to have it.

While it often seems that life in Washington, D.C., is far away and impossible to understand, it’s refreshing to see exhibits like this that humanize politics and allow us to connect with the people who help run our country. It’s even better when it can be over a collection of largely costume pins, something that is somehow both frivolous and deeply meaningful.

While the exhibit is now closed, Albright’s book is available for purchase at your local book store, including Borders and Barnes & Noble.