Rockefeller Support for Projects on the Use of Motion Pictures for Educational and Public Purposes, 1935-1954

by William J. Buxton

Jan 1, 2001
While it is now commonly recognized that Rockefeller philanthropy supported a number of important projects related to radio, its involvement with motion pictures has received much less attention. Yet between 1935 and 1954, the Humanities Division (HD) of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), along with the General Education Board (GEB), allocated around a million and a half dollars to initiatives related to film, scattered across a broad range of initiatives. Indeed, the RF and the GEB interests in motion picture and radio programs were considered as part of a single program concerned with how the educational possibilities of the two new media could be explored and cultivated. As is the case with the Rockefeller projects related to radio, items dealing with motion picture initiatives can be found in abundance at the Rockefeller Archive Center. In addition to extensive material in the RF and the GEB collections (including the fellowship files), additional valuable documentation can be found in the Program and Policy collections, and in some of the officers' diaries (particularly those of John Marshall and David Stevens). In reading through the files on the particular projects found in these various collections, one is almost immediately struck by the overall vision and sense of unified purpose that seemed to underpin the support given to film. In particular, one can detect a strong interest in cultivating an inter-connected community of interests in educational film, each playing a particular role within an emergent complex.
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