National Museum of American History Receives Peace Corps Objects

Smithsonian Focuses on Volunteers during Peace Corps 50th Anniversary
September 20, 2011
In a ceremony today, Peace Corps director Aaron S. Williams donated objects from Peace Corps volunteers to the political history collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The Peace Corps is marking its 50th anniversary and gathered this collection by reaching out to its membership for objects representing the experiences of volunteers stationed around the world. The donation includes documents, brochures, posters and correspondence, a congratulatory letter from the White House signed by President John F. Kennedy and the sign that hung at the original Peace Corps office in Ghana, the first country to host Peace Corps volunteers.

“The varied objects in this collection document both the personal and institutional histories of this remarkable and very American organization, which over the past 50 years has changed the lives of so many individuals around the world,” said Harry Rubenstein, curator at the museum.

“The agency is honored by the creation of this permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History recognizing the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary,” said Williams. “Through this collection of items from Peace Corps service, visitors will be able to learn about the more than 200,000 Americans who have served in the Peace Corps and their efforts to promote world peace and friendship around the world since 1961.”

In 1960 then-Sen. John F. Kennedy challenged college students to serve their country in the interest of peace by living and working in developing countries to provide technical advice and assistance. From that initiative developed a federal government agency devoted to world peace and friendship.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays our American heritage. To learn more about the museum, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY). President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries.