Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at resource.rockarch.org. Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Cultivating Moderates: East-West Exchanges and International Influences on Poland’s Transition to Democracy

May 13, 2022

Beginning in the 1950s, American nongovernmental organizations and US government agencies sponsored exchange programs to bring Eastern European scientists, humanists, scholars, and professionals to Western Europe and the United States, in the belief that exposure to the West would pull East Europeans toward democratic capitalism and undermine communist power. Four decades later in 1989, Poles from both government and opposition groups sat together at a round table to negotiate a transformation from one-party communist rule to capitalist democracy. But did these trips and experiences influence how political elites sought to reform their society at the end of the Cold War? Put most broadly, can pathways of influence and shifts in perception within specific epistemic communities be measured, mapped, and visualized to better illustrate and understand exogenous influences on the democratization process in Eastern Europe?This interdisciplinary project combines traditional, archivally-based qualitative techniques used by historians with digital network analysis tools to better understand the complex, overlapping networks of political revolution and international exchange that came together during the Round Table negotiations in Warsaw in 1989.

Cold War; Ford Foundation; International Relations; Rockefeller Foundation

Designing a Pictorial Language: Rudolf Modley’s Search for Philanthropic Support for the Development of a Universal System of Symbols

May 3, 2022

In 1966, acclaimed cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, and graphic designer Rudolf Modley established the nonprofit Glyphs, Inc., to advance the research, classification, and promotion of universal graphic symbols around the world. Creating a visual language and system of symbols, they believed, could transcend language and lead to greater international understanding and harmony. But despite their esteemed records and vast international contacts, Mead and Modley's ambitious and utopian vision was never fully realized, stalled by lack of financing, unclear and unrealistic goals, differences over philosophy and methodology, and competition and criticism from other comparable endeavors. The correspondence, memos, proposals and reports available in the Rockefeller Archive Center holdings -- notably those of the Ford Foundation (and its affiliate, the Fund for the Advancement of Education), the Rockefeller Foundation (specifically those of the Rockefeller-funded General Education Board), and the Russell Sage Foundation -- provide rich insight into the journey and obstacles faced by Rudolf Modley in raising philanthropic support for his ambitious vision in the decades leading up to the formation of Glyphs, Inc. They shed light on the competing effort of renowned industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss to create an international dictionary of symbols, their differing methods and approach, and their lack of familiarity as designers with the nuances of raising philanthropic funds for their ambitious endeavor. Both Modley and Dreyfuss would go on to publish seminal books on graphic and pictorial symbols in the 1970s, but their tireless efforts to garner support from philanthropic foundations were fraught with false starts and disappointments.

Ford Foundation; General Education Board; Humanities; Rockefeller Foundation; Russell Sage Foundation

Siegfried Kracauer’s New York Networks

April 20, 2022

When Siegfried Kracauer arrived in the United States in May 1941 aboard the Nyassa, he was one of countless German émigrés to have narrowly escaped the Nazi conquest of Europe. By the time of his death a quarter century later, Kracauer had found his footing in the American scene, having published significant contributions to the emerging discipline of film studies (From Caligari to Hitler, 1947; Theory of Film, 1960). He had been hard at work on a monograph about the craft of the historian, which would be published posthumously as History: The Last Things Before the Last (1969). How did this exile gain his bearings upon disembarking in New York Harbor? What were the waystations? Who provided the helping hands? Where did Kracauer turn? 

Film; Humanities; Mass Communications; Political Science; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

Constructing Changes: Seoul National University Hospital and China Medical Board Support, 1967-1978

April 7, 2022

This paper analyzes the construction of SNUH during the 1960s and 1970s, in conjunction with the changing medical landscape in Korea, focusing on support from the China Medical Board.  American influence in medical practice and education in Korea was significant, starting in the late 1950s. Much research has focused on the early American influence on Korean medicine such as missionary activities or the Minnesota Project by the International Cooperation Administration. Recently, more attention has been given to later support for Korean medicine from Western private philanthropies, such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the China Medical Board.  This support laid the material foundation and research organization for contemporary Korean medicine.

Architecture; China Medical Board, Inc.; Medicine and Healthcare

The Rockefeller Foundation, the League of Nations’ Intellectual Cooperation Project, and the Idea of “Internationalism” during the Second World War

March 23, 2022

In this report, I focus on documents that highlight the relationship among the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation (IIIC), linked to the League of Nations, and the refugee scholar Henri Bonnet, the French intellectual and director of the IIIC, in the early 1940s. After the Nazi invasion of Paris in the Second World War, the formulation of a temporary center of intellectual cooperation in the Americas was placed on the agenda. Brazilian physiologist Miguel Ozório de Almeida had been well acquainted with Henri Bonnet and he took part in the Committee for the study of the establishment of this center. The main objective of this research report is to take a fresh look at these debates.

Global; Rockefeller Foundation; World War II

Red Scare Recovery: The Ford Foundation’s Role in Rescuing China after McCarthyism

March 9, 2022

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, McCarthyism blighted the American intellectual landscape. The search for communists and communist sympathizers destroyed the careers of many scholars whose work touched on sensitive or controversial topics. It was exactly this "multistranded nature of McCarthyism" that made it so vexing for its antagonists and has made it such fertile ground for historians.

Academic Research and Education; Cold War; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation

Laurance S. Rockefeller and the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission: Race, Recreation, and the National Parks

February 25, 2022

This project focuses on the links between the conservation movement and civil rights through an examination of the reach and impact of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC) and its chairman, Laurance S. Rockefeller (LSR).  The Commission's landmark report in 1962 identified large racial disparities in access to public lands and recreation across the USA, which prompted the National Park Service (NPS) to establish new National Recreation Areas and Historical Parks in urban areas in the 1960s and 1970s.  The project examines the history of the ORRRC, contextualizes the Commission's work within the longer history of the civil rights movement's efforts to desegregate state and national parks, and NPS efforts to increase recreational opportunities in urban areas.  Based on research in the records of the ORRRC at the Rockefeller Archive Center and in the National Archives, the project also discusses the central role of LSR in the Commission's history, as well as his views on civil rights and public lands.The entire study, commissioned by Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park, includes five chapters.  This report is drawn from chapter 3, which examines the ORRRC's uneven efforts between 1958-62 to identify and recommend remedies for racial disparities in outdoor recreational opportunities in urban areas.  The complete chapter examines ORRRC studies of New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, as well as Atlanta, the focus of this report.  

African American Studies; Laurance S. Rockefeller Papers; Leisure and Tourism; Rockefeller Family

Towards a Philosophical Entente: The Inter-American Conferences of Philosophy in the Mid-Twentieth Century

February 17, 2022

During the Second World War, some of the most wide-ranging and encompassing projects that aimed to bring together Latin and North American philosophers were conceived.  The need to encourage better hemispheric understanding and the idea that philosophy, understood as the highest form of civilization and a response to irrationality and violence, were two of the main motivations for organizing academic meetings and promoting philosophical interchange in the 1940s. In this context, the Inter-American Congresses of Philosophy took place as an effort to set the foundation of an "American" school of thought, in the hemispheric sense of the word, an effort that remains unparalleled to this date.This report sketches the motivations, players, and ideas involved in these conferences, some of the first large-scale projects aimed at fostering the possibility of using philosophy as a common ground for the two Americas. It will become clear that instrumental to this endeavor were certain institutions, especially the Rockefeller Foundation, and a few individuals, such as Charles Hendel, Cornelius Krusé, and William Berrien. Cultural and language barriers, different intellectual backgrounds, and the full reintegration of European philosophers in the philosophical debates will explain why those efforts did not lead to a more continuous philosophical exchange nor to an expression of a North and South American philosophy. 

Academic Research and Education; Philosophy; Rockefeller Foundation

“More than Pawns in the Game of War”: The Rockefeller Foundation, Council for Foreign Relations, and Interwar Mineral Internationalism

February 8, 2022

This report is a preliminary attempt to plot the Rockefeller Foundation's connections to resource internationalism into a global history of interwar political economy. The Foundation channeled funds to think tanks, international organizations, and resource internationalists to help devise a peaceable solution to the raw materials problem. Here, I focus on the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a group of economic geologists studying how mineral interdependence influenced international relations. One important outcome of the Rockefeller Foundation-CFR collaboration was the Mineral Inquiry of 1931-33, which had lasting effects on US resource policies.

International Relations; Interwar Years; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

The Modern Subject and the Problem of Mathematics

January 28, 2022

This research forms part of a larger book project examining how the meanings and values ascribed to mathematics—as a universal, neutral discourse and as an idiom of reason and truth—came into being and about its cultural circulation between the 1920s and 1960s in American colleges and universities. Drawing on publications and sources from institutional archives such as the Rockefeller Archive Center, this project explores the relations and exchanges between mathematicians and scholars across the arts and humanities over what knowing mathematics entailed and what it meant to be modern.

Academic Research and Education; Ford Foundation; International Education Board; Mathematics and Logic; Simon Flexner Papers APS Microfilm

Donald Redfield Griffin, American Zoologist: Report on Archival Research

January 14, 2022

Donald Redfield Griffin (1915-2003) was an American zoologist best known for his discovery of echolocation and for his later work on animal consciousness. He was a central figure in behavioral biology and sensory physiology in the United States, and he made important contributions to the disciplinary and intellectual development of animal behavior research in the second half of the twentieth century. During his early career, he focused on the sensory physiology of animal navigation. Along with fellow Harvard graduate student Robert Galambos (1914-2010), in the late 1930s, Griffin discovered the ultrasonic method of orientation in bats; in 1944, he coined the term "echolocation" to describe this phenomenon as a general method of perception. In addition to his discovery of echolocation, Griffin also made several contributions to understanding the physiological basis of bird migration and navigation, and he popularized in the United States zoologist Karl von Frisch's (1886-1982) dance language theory of the honeybee. In 1976, Griffin surprised the scientific world by raising the question of animal consciousness, a taboo in professional science for most of the twentieth century. Beginning with his provocative book, The Question of Animal Awareness (1976), Griffin devoted the second phase of his career to making animal consciousness a scientifically respectable topic once again. Here again, he made significant contributions to the study of animal behavior by establishing a new field of science, cognitive ethology, which is centered on the evolutionary and comparative analysis of consciousness and cognition in animal behavior.

Biology and Medical Research; Detlev W. Bronk Papers; Donald R. Griffin Papers; Rockefeller University

Designing Agricultural Programs in Mexico and India: Challenges, Successes, and Missed Opportunities

January 7, 2022

While several scholars have examined the foundation and agricultural innovation of the initial 1943 Office of Special Studies (OSS or OEE, the abbreviation in Spanish), this research focuses on, first, the impact of this knowledge on domestic science and rural Mexican development, and, second, the production of agricultural science techniques designed for domestic experimental stations yet implemented beyond Mexico. Consequently, this research examines how these Mexico-based ideas, distinct practices and scientific knowledge looked on the ground in the 1960s when knowledge practices —and seeds—developed in Mexico, arrived in India. In addition to research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), as well as in national and state archives in Mexico and India, oral histories of farmers and scientists were conducted. This research report briefly examines the sunsetting of the OEE and its fusion into a new, wholly Mexican institute (INIA) which would become vital for later international networks. Simultaneously, the Rockefeller Foundation was expanding its presence in rural India.

Agrarian and Rural; Agriculture; Rockefeller Foundation

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