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Announcing the Founding of the
Virtual Museum of Public Service...
"Under Construction"
Opening: Public Service Recognition Week 2024

Honoring Dedication to the Public Good

"In my own life...I've tried to give back to this country, that has given me so much...I believe that each of us - no matter our age or background, or walk of life - each of us has something to contribute to this nation.

Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States

The Proposed Project 

The Virtual Museum of Public Service (VMPS) will offer engaging, in-depth,  multimedia exhibits that highlight the positive roles public servants, institutions, and their partners have played in delivering on government's promises to the public. These public servants and institutions have immeasurably improved the quality of life for all stakeholders across the realms of health, education, the arts, criminal justice, defense, security, and dozens of other services that build social capital.​

We define public servants as employees or volunteers in government (civilian and military), nonprofits, public-private partnerships, foundations, the media, and voluntary organizations.


Each exhibit in the museum's collection will be accompanied by in-depth explanatory articles, extensive lists of materials, and multimedia links related to online resources.  Additionally, the museum will utilize its connections with public service-oriented academics and practitioners worldwide to produce high-school and college-level lesson plans related to museum holdings. In this way, the museum will act as a novel global resource for students, educators, researchers, leaders, and policymakers interested in the experiences, sacrifices, and successes of public servants.



The Rationale​

In an environment where the work and sacrifices of public servants are not always celebrated, the VMPS sets out to remind and inform the general public about the scope, range, and ethos of public service. The VMPS believes that many museum visitors will be surprised to learn how much their fellow citizens in the public service accomplish with relatively sparse funding and resources.


Over 30 million Americans currently work in the public service - in the military and in federal, state, and local government. Moreover, millions of nonprofit partners and private sector contractors, as well as media reporters and foundation staff, help these public servants carry out the missions of government; most have not been recognized as public servants in their own right. The museum will serve as a vehicle through which all of these individuals can celebrate the legacies of public servants who risked their lives and careers to ensure the equitable delivery of supportive services before them. The museum will stress the importance of public servants - historical and current contributions and their quiet pride in serving their fellow citizens.

Lee H. Hamilton
of the 9/11 Commission

"I can assure you, public service is a stimulating, proud and lively enterprise. It is not just a way of life, it is a way to live fully."

Marian Wright Edelman,
Founder and President of the Children's Defense Fund

"I was taught that the world had a lot of problems; that I could struggle and change them; that intellectual and material gifts brought the privilege and responsibility of sharing with others less fortunate, and that service is the rent each of us pays for living.”

 William Jefferson Clinton,
42nd President of the U.S.

“Citizen service is a very American idea that we meet our challenges not as isolated individuals but as members of a true community, with all of us working together.”


The Architecture and Public Works Exhibit highlights a broad array of construction and improvement projects that ensure that individuals have the safe and reliable infrastructure to use in the public sphere and memorials and public venues that serve important historical, symbolic, and cultural functions.

Serving the Public in Elected Office Exhibit highlights influential political leaders at the federal, state, and local levels of government who are driven by an intrinsic desire to contribute to the common good.

Image From VMPS Prospectus_edited.png


"We will ever strive for the ideals and sacred things of the city... We will unceasingly seek to quicken the sense of public duty... We will transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."- Excerpt from Athenian Oath (4th or 5th century B.C)


This engraving of the Athenian Oath stands at the entrance to The Maxwell School of Citizenship at Syracuse University, reminding dedicated and aspiring public servants that the legacy of ancient Athens has figured prominently in the construction of the American political and civic identity.


The oath taken in a public ritual by ephebos (men of eighteen or nineteen) marked their entry into adulthood and the realm of public service. Upon uttering this oath, young Athenian men entered two years of civic and military service - what we today might refer to as a period of national service. This tradition has been called an early historical example of public administration. 


A public service career can often be challenging and even dangerous despite its perceived benefits and job security. The exhibits in this wing; Security, Fire and Emergency Management, Military Service, Public Safety and Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice, and Investigative Services – celebrate those public servants willing to place themselves in harm’s way to facilitate the safe and efficient functioning of the public sphere. Some public service occupations that might be stereotyped as "safe" will also have dedicated spaces in this gallery, such as teaching, librarianship, nursing, public health providers, and postal service employees.


Today, modern transportation has allowed the planet we live on to feel smaller than ever. Fast, systematized, and reliable forms of worldwide shipping and mail delivery ensure we never feel too far from our global neighbors. However, prior to the introduction of trains, trucks, and planes, delivering mail could be a surprisingly treacherous task. A group of early American mail carriers - dubbed the Barefoot Mailmen by author Theodore Pratt - working in Florida in the latter half of the 19th century exemplify these difficulties.

South Florida became more populated in the 1880s as pioneers filtered down from the northern states. This created a need for new pathways that the United States Postal Service could only access on foot before the Florida East Coast Railway was constructed. In 1884, the USPS designed a new mail route that began in Palm Beach and ended in Miami. The mail carriers who manned this route would travel the 135-mile roundtrip over six days, leaving only one day for rest before they set off again. Although much of this route followed the beaches of Florida, it also necessitated sailing across the alligator-infested Lake Worth Lagoon. Occasionally, mail carriers did not survive the journey; in 1887, for example, James Hamilton drowned while attempting to cross Lake Worth. James, and all of the other"barefoot" mailmen who followed this route until 1893, remind us of the sacrifices made to ensure the open flow of communication, information, and ideas. 

Photograph of Horace Mann (1850), an early American advocate of universal public education.

"Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men."

Horace Mann


Governmental and nonprofit educational organizations are foundational institutions that promote public values day in and day out. Education, Libraries, & the Helping Professions Exhibit celebrates these institutions as accessible gateways to knowledge and culture. It presents biographical information on those who have had influential careers as librarians or philanthropists who contributed to enhancing the role of libraries in the lives of their community members.

Social Work and the Helping Professions Exhibit highlights professionals who have, throughout history, nurtured the growth of individuals' psychological, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual well-being, whether through medicine, nursing, therapy, counseling, social work, or education.


Vivian Gordon Harsh symbolizes a crucial moment in American education and cultural development history. As the nation's first Black professional librarian, she is remembered as a major figure of Chicago's Black Renaissance, an aesthetic and literary movement of the mid-20th century that demonstrated burgeoning creativity surrounding questions of race, identity, and belonging. Harsh promoted the Chicago Public Library system as a space for the Black community of Chicago's South Side to study and investigate these questions. She did this by collating large bodies of specifically African-American resources (donated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other organizations) for the George C. Hall Library Branch that she directed from 1932 to 1958. These collections would become sources of inspiration for important literary figures, such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.




"There cannot be any impediment to science, that will ultimately be good to the general public." 

Anthony Fauci, Former Chief Medical Advisor to the U.S. President

Public institutions are at the center of upholding and improving human health and sustaining our environment, though polarizing policy debates often overshadow their impact. The Science and Service to the Public Exhibit highlight the administrators, biologists, conservationists, activists, ecologists, and other natural scientists who survey changes in our natural world and advocate for protecting our environment.

The Public Health and Healthcare Exhibit showcases the history of organizations and public health professionals that strive daily to deliver services to protect the health of our families and communities, whether working in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, or mental health facilities. 


Dr. Frances Kelsey of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA was assigned to study Thalidomide. She withstood countless pressures for approval of the drug inside the FDA and from the drug companies themselves. Kelsey would be harassed by phone several times a day by the William S. Merrill Company concerning the clearance of the drug, to the point where she would simply stop answering her phone during the day. Kelsey would withstand this pressure for two years until the European epidemic of birth defects was linked to Thalidomide. She brought to light the gruesome images, which appeared widely in the press, to finally stop the distribution of this harmful drug. Kelsey's work stopped the distribution of this drug in the U.S. and elsewhere, saving many thousands from birth defects and early death.

As recognition for her efforts, Kelsey received the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service, awarded to her by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Joseph Hayne Rainey, the First African-American person to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives

Sonia Sotomayor, First Latina Member of the U.S. Supreme Court



Diversity is essential to the health of the public sector. The galleries in this wing explore the vital contributions of people of color, women, immigrants, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others from underrepresented groups. These galleries aim to illuminate the importance of diverse voices. Their role in shaping the systems and structure surrounding us has often gone unrecognized. The galleries in this wing also explore leadership, motivation, and innovation, influential factors shaping public service.

"This law school, this community is deeply committed to serving others, to expanding access to legal services and to using the law to help the underdog in our march toward equality." 

Marty Walsh, Former Mayor of Boston; Secretary of Labor


Jeannette Rankin (June 11, 1880 – May 18, 1973) is often remembered primarily for being the first woman elected into the U.S. Congress. However, her work in public service and social activism far transcended her two terms in the House of Representatives, beginning with a career in social work in an earthquake-torn San Francisco of the early 20th century, and coming to a close with the organizing of a mass 1968 anti-war protest in Washington D.C. at the age of eighty-seven. By ceaselessly fighting against forms of abuse, occurring both domestically and internationally Jeannette Rankin proved herself to be a lifelong servant of the public interest. Although she was not always successful, her path opened up new political possibilities and allowed the boundaries of the status quo to be broadened in the name of equality. The events of her life stand as an inspiration for all those devoted to the fulfillment of justice and peace in the public sphere.  


If not for the diligent work of public administrators, legislated policy ideals would be just ideas. By implementing those ideas via action, public managers at all levels of government and nonprofits are essential to the delivery of public services and, therefore, to public satisfaction. This gallery offers visual insights into numerous perspectives on public management. In Financing our Common Purposes, we examine taxation as a means of fulfilling the common good. International Public Service examines boundary-spanning organizations that aim to address issues affecting the worldwide well-being.

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Image from the 2017 United Nations' Public Service Awards Ceremony for countries promoting sustainable development Goals (SDGs)

"My creed is that public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people and to the nation with full recognition that every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration...that honor is to be earned, not bought."

Margaret Chase Smith, Former U.S. Senator

Centered in Atlanta, Georgia, the CDC is a multi-tiered public health organization of the U.S. Government. The organization works to combat a host of health and safety issues that are responsible for diminishing the quality of life for individuals across America. These issues go far beyond combatting infectious diseases, to issues of environmental hazards, occupational injuries and safety violations, and food-related health complications (such as obesity and diabetes). Creating preventative educational programs that empower Americans to make informed decisions regarding medicine, food, and lifestyle is at the core of the CDC's mission. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen these forms of educational outreach in practice, as millions of Americans looked to the CDC for information regarding masking, vaccines, and so on. This body of devoted scientists and researchers has proved essential to moving the country through this moment of crisis.

Rochelle Walensky,19th Director of the CDC


In 1996, the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the environmental degradation of national parks, including Yellowstone National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

In 1996, the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the environmental degradation of national parks, including Yellowstone National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 1904, the trailblazing 19th-century Hungarian-American journalist Joseph Pulitzer used his will to establish an annual award that would celebrate excellence in U.S. journalism. An early proponent of university-level training for journalists, Pulitzer saw journalism as a rigorous art form with a strong moral and ethical basis. Having been exceptionally bold in reporting on the American government's and corporations' corruption in the late 19th century, he was eager to encourage other journalists to view their profession as a public service. Since 1917, the Pulitzer Public Service Awards have celebrated publications that demonstrate courage, honesty, and transparency in keeping the public informed, no matter the weight of the information. Pulitzer understood that there could be no stable democracy without a free press and
fearless storytellers.

"Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph, and the signs of horror are still in the air." -

Henry Anatole Grunwald


Philanthropy is an enduring mission that comes in many forms to support initiatives addressing the root causes of major global challenges: resource scarcities in small communities and individual needs among the disabled and disadvantaged. Donors, whether large or small, also recognize the importance of giving more than money. Many can provide non-financial assets, such as their influence to advance advocacy programs, contacts, and networks to expand the reach of fundraising initiatives. The field of philanthropy also plays an important role in supporting experimental stages of innovative ideas that, when proven, can be utilized and implemented by governments toward addressing public problems. Philanthropists are often at the helm of initiatives involving partnerships between public and private organizations, as well as 
civil society.


Image of Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish American immigrant who would become an important industrialist and philanthropist

"Remember that you are on the face of the earth for a relatively short period...

Do not waste that precious time. Do not shrink from  the responsibility of trying to make a difference." 

David Rubenstein, American Financier and Philanthropist


Beyond our exhibits, these additional tools and resources offered by the museum will render the site a comprehensive resource for students, teachers, and researchers:
  • An interactive timeline documenting critical dates in the history of public service will lend visitors an overarching sense of the historical trajectory and development of the conception of public service.

  • A public service, “News Room,” will collate recent stories in the media which showcase both the positive work that public servants are engaged in globally and the hardships that they face.

  • Data visualization tools and infographics throughout the site will help dispel some of the popular misconceptions surrounding the public service sector.

  • The Voices of Public Leaders podcast will present interviews, talks, and public comments by prominent leaders sharing perspectives, challenges, and opportunities for the public sector's critical issues.

  • The "Ask Me Why I Care" Youtube series will present video stories of public servants representing public safety, fire services, health, and government.

  • A comprehensive career/volunteer information page will allow visitors to explore how they can make a difference in the realm of public service.

  • A Public Service Youtube Channel will archive engaging perspectives on public service, such as presidential speeches, excerpts from public service-oriented commencement addresses, and media scenes that present positive views of public service.

  • Dedicated issues of the open-access journal Public Voices will highlight contemporary aspects of public service.

Museum Map

Board Members


Marc Holzer, PhD, Chair

   Rutgers University, Suffolk University

Hala Altamimi, PhD,

   University of Kansas

Thomas Barth, PhD,

   University of North Carolina

Daniel Bromberg, PhD,

   University of New Hampshire

Sandford Borins, PhD,

   University of Toronto

Tony Carrizales, PhD,

   Marist College

Lisa Cusack, PhD,

   Rutgers University

Charles Goodsell, PhD,

   Virginia Commonwealth University

Lauren Hajjar, PhD,

   Suffolk University

Patria Julnes, PhD,

   University of New Mexico

Pan Suk Kim, PhD,

   Yonsei University

Donald Klinger, PhD,

   University of Colorado

Elaine Yi Lu, PhD,

   City University of New York

Sarmistha Majumdar, PhD,

   Texas Southern University

Aroon Manoharan, PhD,

   Suffolk University

Dennis Martino, EdD,

   National CPM Consortium

Yetunde Omede, PhD,

   State University of New York

Valerie Patterson, PhD,

   Florida International University

Alan Shark, DPA,

   George Mason University,

   Public Technology Institute

Aaron Smith-Walter, PhD,

   University of Massachusetts

Prajapati Trivedi, PhD,

   The Management Development

    Institute, India

Lois Warner, PhD,

   Rutgers University

Joshua Weissman-Lafrance, MPA,

   Suffolk University


 Jonathan Wexler, 

   University of North Carolina

Virtual Museum of Public Service Sponsor Levels


Virtual Museum of Public Service Campaign

Join Us in Honoring Public Service


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