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Life magazine's vast networks and the connections and collaborations between its editors and museum trustees, collectors, curators, critics, and artists at a wide range of institutions led to some of the most fascinating and innovative exhibitions, magazine articles, and programs in the mid-century American art world.
This research report provides edited excerpts from my PhD thesis, "Politics of the Past: Archaeology, Nationalism and Diplomacy in Afghanistan, 1919–2001," submitted to the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. The aim of the thesis was to assess the relationship between nationalist agendas and the discipline of archaeology in Afghanistan from 1919 to 2001. The material collected from the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) contributed to Chapter 5 of the thesis, which focused on the political period 1946–1978 in Afghanistan, when Afghan leaders began to open the country to international archaeological teams. At the RAC, I was particularly interested in uncovering material pertaining to a travelling exhibition of artefacts from the National Museum of Afghanistan, which opened at Asia House in New York City in 1966. The following segments also draw on archival material from the JFK Library in Boston, Massachusetts and the National Archives in Delhi, India. The material collected from the RAC helped demonstrate how Afghan leaders used archaeology to build diplomatic relations with key allies, including Japan and the United States, during the 1960s.
The purpose of my research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) was to identify the ways that American philanthropic foundations' arts-focused initiatives connected to social science programs for modernizing the Middle East in the 1950s. This research is a central component of my forthcoming book, Metrics of Modernity: Art and Development in 1950s Turkey. At the Rockefeller Archive Center, I found that John Marshall, Associate Director for the Humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation, was unusually forward-thinking in his belief that arts-focused philanthropy could help drive development in the Middle East. In what follows, I argue that the Turkish ceramicist Füreya Koral, to whom Marshall offered one of the foundation's very first artist's fellowships in 1956, served as a test case for Marshall's hypothesis that the modern artist had an important role to play in the modernization of the Middle East.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, John Ensor Harr and Peter J. Johnson wrote the definitive biography, spanning two volumes, of John D. Rockefeller 3rd, the oldest son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Their books, The Rockefeller Century(1988) and The Rockefeller Conscience (1991), offer the ideal starting point for more focused studies on the life of the self-effacing brother of Abby, David, Laurance, Nelson, and Winthrop Rockefeller. As a historian of tourism and travel I wanted to better understand how JDR 3rd's travel experiences influenced his collection of East and South Asian art, as well as the institutions that he established there and in the United States to foster cross-cultural understanding (including the International House in Tokyo, the India International Centre in New Delhi, and the Asia Society in New York) between East and West and among Asians themselves. As I worked in the Rockefeller Family Archives during the summer of 2010, however, I learned that JDR 3rd's travels not only shaped his interest in Asian art and crosscultural institutions, but, as the quote from the French travel-writer Nicolas Bouvier above suggests, also changed the man himself.
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