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Getting a rare glimpse of historic treasures

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Getting a rare glimpse of historic treasures
The piano played by President Harry S. Truman still entertains visitors to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the U.S. Department of State. James V. Carroll

Secreted away on the eighth floor of the U.S. Department of State are a number of extraordinary rooms known as the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Relatively few people have an opportunity to see these rooms containing a one-of-a-kind collection of museum-caliber American furnishings of the period between 1750 and 1825.Each year, a number of American Legion members attending the annual Washington Conference in the nation's Capitol are invited to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms by American Legion State Department Post 68 and the U.S. Department of State.

"The diplomatic reception rooms are among the most beautiful rooms in the world used for entertaining," said Patrick Kennedy, State Department Undersecretary for Management. "In this setting, the Secretary of State, the Vice President, and members of the Cabinet entertain leaders of the world, as well as foreign and American dignitaries."

The collection, valued at more than $90 million, has been acquired with generous tax-deductible contributions from public-spirited citizens, foundations and corporations. No tax dollars have been used to assemble the collection, to redesign the architectural backgrounds or to preserve the collection.

Items in the collection include Paul Revere silver, Chinese export porcelain once the property of George and Martha Washington, and the desk on which the Treaty of Paris, ending the American Revolution, was signed in 1783.

Each year more than 80,000 guests are entertained at luncheons, receptions and dinners. In addition, 60,000 visitors tour the reception rooms.

Tours are given at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 2:45 p.m., Monday through Friday, by reservation only. Reservations should be made approximately four weeks in advance by communicating with the tour office, (202) 647-3241, fax (202) 736-4232, or TDD (202) 736-4474.

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