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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The Why, the What, the How: Disney, the Population Council, and the Pre-Production of "Family Planning"

September 6, 2023

Family Planning, a short, animated film made by Walt Disney Productions in 1968, is a touchstone for historians of global population. Since Matthew Connelly's Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population (2008) re-energized the field, the film has become a fixture in histories of population control; an irresistible opportunity to namecheck Donald Duck and inject some levity into otherwise sober accounts. Analysis has concentrated on salient features of the film: its construction of an ethnically generic "everyman," its consumerist message, and its coyness about contraception. It typically figures as one of the most significant products of a sustained effort to mobilize mass media in the service of international family planning.Our research mobilizes previously neglected lines of evidence, especially unpublished documents held by the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), to shed new light on hidden negotiations and contestations. In drawing from the materials at the RAC — and beyond — we aim to contribute to an increasingly concerted effort to embed questions about media and communication more centrally in histories of reproductive politics.

Film; Mass Communications; Population Council; Population and Reproductive Sciences

The 1963 Ford Foundation Program for Film Makers and the Networks of Experimental Cinema

May 12, 2023

In June 1963, the Ford Foundation's Humanities and the Arts program sent out a call for nominations for their Program for Film Makers. Nine months later, in March 1964, twelve American filmmakers received grants of 10,000 dollars "to enable a limited number of creative film makers to extend and deepen their artistic experience and productivity." The documents surrounding the creation and development of this one-time grant in support of experimental filmmaking reveal the challenges facing private foundations engaged with an evolving and diverse art form. Furthermore, they counter a representation of experimental filmmaking as individualistic and author-centered by uncovering networks of support among artists and the cultural milieu that sustained their works.

Film; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller 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

Modernization and Documentary Film in  the Americas

June 29, 2020

Historians and other scholars have recognized the centrality of visuality and images to the modernization theory that drove US policy in the Global South during the Cold War. However, these scholars have so far failed to take into account the process of creating and consuming images and how that process shaped popular and expert ideas of what modernization would look like. Focusing primarily on efforts in Latin America, my book will trace the complex interplay between documentary filmmaking and international development institutions and agencies formed during and in the decades after World War II. This report traces the convergence of economic development and documentary film by examining some of the 1940s productions of Nelson Rockefeller's Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA), as well as some Rockefeller Foundation agricultural films of the early 1960s. In particular, it looks at a few films made by director Willard Van Dyke, who was trained in the New Deal documentary tradition and went on to make films for both the OCIAA and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Agriculture; Film; International Relations; Mass Communications; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Political Science; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

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