May 2023

When America’s first diplomat, Benjamin Franklin was sent to Paris in 1776 to seek French support in the nation’s fight for independence, he had to fend for himself; including finding a place to live and work.  On May 18, the Director of the Overseas Buildings Operations Office of Cultural Heritage, Tobin Tracey, AIA, presented the history of the Department of State’s diplomatic architectural heritage to a group of 35 attendees at the National Museum of American Diplomacy. The presentation, offered in celebration of Preservation Month, highlighted how America’s cultural heritage properties were acquired as well as the U.S. stories represented at these places.

The Department of State’s Office of Cultural Heritage, established in 2015, has identified over 260 historic structures and properties––25 in UNESCO World Heritage Sites––and more than 16,555 artworks and culturally significant objects in U.S. embassies, consulates, and residences worldwide.  These buildings are the stages on which our diplomats advance American ideals of democracy and free enterprise around the globe.

Representatives from both the Office of Cultural Heritage and the Fund to Conserve were in attendance and addressed questions before and after the presentation.  A special thanks to the National Museum of American Diplomacy for hosting this important program to raise awareness of how the United States’ story is reflected in heritage properties overseas.