By Mikala Williams
The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) celebrated its 40-year anniversary this past summer by partnering with the United States Diplomacy Center on a unique exhibit that highlighted the 239-year history of consular services in America.
The exhibit, entitled “From Pirates to Passports: A Timeless Commitment to Service,” traced the evolution of consular services from the earliest days of the republic—predating even the U.S. Constitution—to its global presence today, illustrating how consular work has advanced national security, protected U.S. citizens and facilitated legitimate travel. The exhibit shared the rich, untold stories of consuls over the centuries—including the tale of James Cathcart who was held hostage by Barbary Pirates in the 1800s; U.S. Consuls Nathaniel Hawthorne and James Fenimore Cooper; the consuls who helped Americans flee Nazi-controlled Europe during World War II; and Barbara Watson, the first woman and first African-American to attain the rank of Assistant Secretary at the Department of State. A team of history buffs led by CA Outreach Officer Kelly Landry attained hundreds of years of history about citizen services, passports and visas, and a talented design team brought it to life through a series of vibrant panels with exclusive photos and historical artifacts.
At the opening of the exhibit, May 29, Assistant Secretary Carl C. Risch welcomed guest of honor and self-acknowledged history buff Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the exhibit’s inauguration. During his remarks, the Secretary highlighted CA’s “many stories of service and heroism” and the “essential services to millions of Americans each year.” Also in attendance were the Washington-based Consular Corps, along with current and retired senior Department officials.
The exhibit will be transported to SA-17 after its closure in the Diplomacy Center, and later this fall, CA plans to launch a virtual, multimedia version of the exhibit which will be available to the general public.
Mikala Williams is a management analyst in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.