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Opening its first building to the public in 1932, Colonial Williamsburg was a monumental immersive environment that restored the small town of Williamsburg, Virginia to its appearance during the eighteenth century. The project was spearheaded by William A. R. Goodwin, an Episcopalian minister in Williamsburg, and funded by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who eventually spent over $60 million on the restoration. Goodwin recruited Rockefeller to fund the project by pointing out the unique opportunity that Williamsburg provided to restore an entire colonial town of historical importance. Williamsburg was the home of one of the country's oldest universities, the College of William and Mary, was frequented by such Virginians as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, and had served as the capital of the Virginia colony from 1699 to 1780. But after this period, the town experienced relative isolation and a lack of economic development that left many of its colonial buildings extant, while all of its central properties could be acquired for comparatively little expense.
Cross-Cultural Communication Theory: Basic English and Machine Translation at the Rockefeller FoundationDecember 19, 2019
My goal in conducting research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) was to identify the ways in which both the Rockefeller (RF) and Ford Foundations (FF) conceived of the relationship between literature and computing in their programs at mid-century. This research is central to my book project, Machine Talk: Literature, Computers and Conversation. In what follows, I lay out the background of this project and a research context that has often highlighted the intertwined emergence of computing and communication theory—and ignored the contributions made by the humanities to the development of this concept. I turn specifically to the RF Humanities Division, outlining its role in supporting early research into theories of communication—particularly cross-cultural communication—which would prove vital to the post-World War Two development of communication theory in the sciences.
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