'Tempe Sister Cities: Fifty Years of Citizen Diplomacy' at the Downtown Phoenix campus Library

Published June 10, 2022

The ASU Library, in collaboration with the Tempe Sister Cities program and The Melikian Center: Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies, celebrates 50 years of citizen diplomacy in the Sister Cities program. Visitors to the Downtown Phoenix campus Library can explore stories and photographs documenting the program’s history.

The displays illustrate how citizens can function as international diplomats for their countries by fostering high-quality one-on-one relationships. 

The catalyst for the partnership was a  2018-2019 research cluster project with the Institute for Humanities Research led by Keith Brown, Director of The Melikian Center.  

Alexandra Humphreys, Associate Liaison Librarian for Humanities and Renee James, Greater Arizona Collection Curator, joined a team of researchers, librarians, archivists, students, and community members to examine “Citizen-Diplomacy, Past and Future: A Case-Study of Tempe Sister Cities, People-to-People International Arizona, and Global Ties Arizona, 1956-2021.”

Person wearing glasses smiling at the viewer
Alexandra Humphreys

“The idea evolved into setting up an exhibition that would celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sister Cities and a partnership between the Melikian Center, ASU Library and the Tempe History Museum came from that,” said Humphreys. “Deanna Carrera from the Tempe Sister Cities also joined the partnership by providing materials, logistical help and organizing the opening of the main exhibition in the Tempe History Museum.” 

The Tempe Sister Cities program began 50 years ago when Tempe entered into a relationship with Skopje, Yugoslavia (present North Macedonia) and became the first city in America with a sister city in communist Eastern Europe. Today Tempe has 11 sister cities on five continents and continues to promote peace and understanding through international friendship. The exhibit explores these fascinating and diverse places and shows the history and impact of the sister cities program at home and abroad.

This relationship with Skopje has a special connection to ASU. Keith Brown, Director of the Melikian Center, has written extensively about the history of the sister city relationship between Tempe and Skopje. Alexandra Humphreys also lived in the city for many years. 

“In 1963 Skopje was hit with a major earthquake which killed a lot of people and left about 200,000 people homeless,” said Humphreys. “I knew several people whose relatives, some of them parents and siblings, perished in the earthquake. Seventy-eight nations from all over the world cut across political divisions and offered supplies or took part in rebuilding the city. It was the first time since the onset of the Cold War that American, Soviet and other nations came together to launch a major humanitarian initiative.” 

Group of people standing together with Tempe Sister Cities logo overlay

The main exhibit, “Bringing the World Together-One Friendship at a Time” is located at the Tempe History Museum. 

Humphreys encourages visitors to also visit the Tempe History Museum’s exhibit. “Visitors can explore fascinating artifacts from the 11 Tempe sister cities and their countries,” said Humphreys. “Josh Roeffler, Tempe History Museum Curator, utilized a lot of fun technology to make it engaging for children and adults.” 

The display will be at the Downtown Phoenix campus Library through August 31. Located in the downstairs of the University Center building in downtown Phoenix, visitors can find this panel display primarily in the area near L1-82 classroom. In September, the display will move to Noble Library on the Tempe campus.

Plan your visit to the Downtown Phoenix campus Library and the Tempe History Museum today.