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Microsoft Brings Tech To US Diplomacy Center

A $1 million contribution from Microsoft will help bring new technology to a museum focused on American diplomacy.

"It's done in a very dignified setting," Johnson continues, "but allows visitors to interact through technology in a quiet way to understand what those groups did." She hopes to achieve a similar effect at the USDC.

The DCF is working to collaborate with private sector donors to combine technical expertise with diplomatic vision, and the role of technology will vary throughout the museum. Microsoft in particular will have a key presence in Hall 1, which will dive into the current state of diplomacy. The Foundation is anticipating further discussions with Microsoft to showcase its global relationships, says Johnson.

In a blog post on the partnership, Microsoft's EVP and chief strategy officer Mark Penn shares the company vision for its "Diplomacy is Everywhere, 24/7" exhibit. Devices like Surface Hub touch screens, Skype Translator and Bing Maps are three tools that visitors can use to "virtually play the role of diplomat," Penn writes. "They'll travel where diplomats travel, talk with foreign diplomatic counterparts, and make the decisions diplomats make every day around the world," he continues.

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(Image: Microsoft)

The vision includes a digital "Diplomacy Wall" that will allow visitors to interact with real-life scenarios and learn about the issues that diplomats face each day. They can also use the map to see where the US has a diplomatic presence around the world, learn about international organizations, and visualize where the U.S. is working on various global issues like wildlife trafficking and HIV/AIDS, says Bryan.

She, too, sees technology as a critical component for how the museum will engage and educate a broad audience of people, from passively interested adults to students who want to pursue diplomatic careers. Current ideas include a pen that can be used to download information from exhibits and video capabilities to capture visitors speaking at a podium as diplomats would. For students, Bryan would like to build glass-enclosed classrooms in which they can chat with foreign peers or diplomats in countries they're studying at that time.

The museum will also highlight how technology has influenced diplomacy over time and how diplomats leverage technology each day. Bryan hopes to teach visitors how tools like video conferencing and social media shape global communication.

In order to bring these visions to life, Bryan is recruiting participation from active and retired diplomats, citizen diplomacy partners, and student interns. "We're trying to get as much input as we can to make sure that we're on target," she says. "We want it to be inclusive." Input is coming from all corners of US government including the departments of agriculture, commerce, and homeland security.

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