From representation to engagement: how have museums supported US cultural diplomacy?

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American museums were great supporters and partners for cultural diplomacy during the Cold War and concurrently expanded their expertise into the area of cultural relations. In the post-9/11 era, with the rise of soft power and new public diplomacy, there have been changes in the added expectations for museums’ role in cultural diplomacy to move more toward the community engagement model from the traditional exhibit-oriented model. This research studies the historical overview of museums’ efforts in cultural diplomacy and investigates the changes in directions and actors’ dynamics through two cases from the Department of State: the American Spaces program and Museums Connect. The study confirms museums are the producers of soft power for cultural diplomacy and cultural relations and demonstrates how new museology and new public diplomacy created synergy for the public-private partnership and achieves the goals of both governmental and nongovernmental actors in cultural diplomacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-400
Number of pages18
JournalMuseum Management and Curatorship
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • Cultural diplomacy
  • cultural relations
  • cultural soft power
  • museum diplomacy
  • new museology
  • new public diplomacy


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