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Woodrow Wilson House extends exhibition of presidential mementos

Artillery Shell

Cracked artillery shell painted by French artist Émile Gallois (1882-1965). The painting depicts the town of Pont-à-Mousson in Lorraine, France. Strategically situated on the Moselle River, Pont-à-Mousson was the scene of heavy fighting during World War I. Photo courtesy the Woodrow Wilson House.

What do you get the president who has it all?

Ideas abound at the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, D.C., which has extended its exhibit of 101 treasures from around the world through January 17, 2010. Included in the exhibition are an impressive collection of gifts, curios, and awards, many of which were presented by foreign dignitaries over the course of President Wilson’s two terms in office.

Among the treasures on display is a hand-painted French faience platter, weighing 32 pounds, presented during Wilson’s historic trip to Europe in 1918-1919. A stained glass medallion, also from France, features medieval glass salvaged from the Cathedral of Rheims, which was damaged by German artillery fire during World War I. Hand-painted porcelain plates, tributes from the King and Queen of Belgium, depict peaceful scenes of Belgium before the war. Elaborate gold and silver “freedom caskets” acted as offerings from the grateful people of Britain.

A lavish collection of gifts of state from Abyssinia (Ethiopia), including crowns, javelins, and a lion’s mane cape, were presented to President Wilson by the first Ethiopian diplomatic mission to the United States in 1919. Two sets of samurai armor were gifts from Japan. Other treasures include intricate ivory scrimshaws, examples of Inuit art, porcelain, silver and a beaded belt rumored to have been made by Pocahontas—an ancestor of Wilson’s wife, Edith Bolling Wilson.

Check out more photos of items in the exhibit here.

Wilson Peak rock

The top of Wilson Peak in the French Alps. Presented to President Wilson by the city of Chamonix, France in 1918. The mountain, formerly bearing the name of German explorer Dr. Piltscher, was renamed Wilson Peak by the Association of Guides and the Municipal Council of Chamonix on August 15, 1918. During the ceremony the American flag was planted on top of the mountain and at dusk the glacier crevices were illuminated by fireworks. Photo courtesy the Woodrow Wilson House.

Silver Pendant Head piece

Triangular silver pendant headpiece with silver tassels. This headpiece was among the gifts presented to President and Mrs. Wilson by the first Abyssinian (Ethiopian) mission to the U.S. in July 1919. Photo courtesy the Woodrow Wilson House.

Micronesian fan

Tortoise shell and coconut fiber fan from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. A traditional Micronesian handicraft, fans of this kind were used as personal accessories or for fanning the embers of a fire. Photo courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson House.

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