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.
Clear all

151 results found

reorder grid_view

“An Obligation and a Conviction to Work for Women Less Fortunate than I Am”: Joan Dunlop, Women’s Reproductive Rights, and the Work of the Population Council

November 9, 2022

This report details my research trip to the Rockefeller Archive Center in July 2016. My research agenda was to analyse the work of the Population Council, as a case study through which to explore the ways in which American non-governmental actors could negotiate a decolonising, Cold War world. I was interested in how philanthropic organisations work as spaces determined by "values" and how these "values" might both shape and be shaped by encounters with the wider world, especially actors and communities in the Global South. My focus on the Population Council also led me to explore particularly the work of Joan Dunlop, and her role in determining American NGO-led policy towards the role of women in the Global South, particularly focusing on the issue of reproductive rights.

Joan Dunlop Papers; John D. Rockefeller 3rd Papers; Population and Reproductive Sciences; Rockefeller Family; Women

“If Human Ears Were Tuned to Bat Frequencies": Inaudible Sound and the Sciences of Bat Echolocation

October 27, 2022

This report provides draft excerpts from my PhD dissertation titled "The Inaudible Sounds of Science and Medicine: Animals and Media from the Galton Whistle to Bat Echolocation," a chapter of which explores the laboratory work of Donald R. Griffin – and especially the emergence of the concept of bat echolocation – as it contributed to a sonic history of "ultrasound" and other typologies of liminal sound vibrations. Such "inaudible sounds" repeatedly defied amplification (efforts to make them louder); their frequencies were too high or too low to vibrate the human eardrum. But humans have long suspected that insects, bats, dogs, and other animals could hear them and communicate through them. The following research on bat echolocation in the Griffin laboratory is one aspect of a much more comprehensive historical project, which platforms nonhuman listeners in 19th- and 20th-century experimental contexts as they repeatedly pushed the limitations of human hearing. Broadly speaking, the dissertation suggests that animal figures are useful vectors for exploring an expanded history of sounds, including high-pitched frequencies, in science and medicine. My objective is to better understand how scientists designed media and choreographed animal listeners in order to make meaning from the sounds they could not hear on their own. I am most invested in understanding how humans exploited, collaborated with, and coexisted with animals to make sense of the insensible – or, to understand the unheard bestial worlds of communication.  In this report, I draw on material from the Donald R. Griffin Papers, held at the Rockefeller Archive Center, which includes a vast array of Griffin's laboratory notebooks, correspondences, sound films, newspaper clippings, and publications. The analysis spans the years between Donald Griffin's first experiment on bat navigation in the dark (1938) – conducted during his early graduate training years – and his postwar research on the physical principles of bat pulses into the 1960s.  More specifically, I characterize the ways in which various forms of media were deployed in experimental settings to study bats and the inaudible sounds emitted by them for orienting their bodies in flight. Scientists and collaborators of the Griffin lab relied on an array of mixed media, from the sound transposing devices of Harvard physicist George W. Pierce, to mechanical-visual apparatuses such as cathode-ray oscillograms and sound spectrographs, through to hand-written laboratory notes and printed correspondences and – ultimately – the bats themselves, to answer their questions. Furthermore, I explore the epistemic techniques of listening for sound and silence in the Griffin laboratory, in which the ears and eyes of scientists interfaced with special acoustic media to produce certain knowledges about bats and their patterns of flight. This project also engages with the highly militarized scientific contexts that constituted Griffin's work on bat echolocation.

Biology and Medical Research; Donald R. Griffin Papers; Rockefeller University; Technology; World War II

The Ford Foundation’s 1970s Program for School Finance Reform: Origins and Overview

October 13, 2022

As a foundation, Ford tried different approaches to ameliorate social problems.  For example, the Ford Foundation both funded community control of schools to make local fundraising easier and lawsuits to equalize state resources during the late 1960s.  Yet, the ideas behind the Ford Foundation's public education grantmaking conflicted: Should democracy be based on voting or participation? Should schools be run by the community or by experts? Should legislatures volunteer or courts require school finance reform?  From the start of its influential school finance grantmaking in 1969, Ford funded policy ideas rather than political action, looking to the courts for top-down orders to end the discriminatory use of property taxes to fund schools.  The foundation pursued two strategies: supporting groups reforming discriminatory school finance and building "intellectual strength."

Education; Ford Foundation; Taconic Foundation

Grace McCann Morley and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs

September 9, 2022

While conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, "Grace McCann Morley and the Dialectical Exchange of Modern Art in the Americas, 1935-1958," I visited the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in order to learn more about Grace McCann Morley's work with Nelson Rockefeller and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), through materials in Nelson A. Rockefeller's personal papers. In 1940, Rockefeller invited Morley, the director of the San Francisco Museum of Art (SFMA; now San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), to serve as an advisor to the CIAA and its Committee on Art. This committee planned exhibitions such as La Pintura Contemporánea Norteamericana for Latin American audiences and Latin American Art for US audiences. Although my research in the archives did not uncover correspondence between Rockefeller and Morley, it did reveal useful contextual information about Rockefeller's investment in collecting and exhibiting Latin American art and Morley's relationship with Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA).

Art; International Relations; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

Contested Subjects across Cold War Frontiers: Hungarian Refugees from 1956

July 29, 2022

My project follows Hungarian refugees from the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956 through the Cold War ideological and institutional structures of the immediate postwar period. To what extent did they adopt a Cold War script, and conversely and to what extent were they conditioned by the constraints of the geopolitical order? Moreover, how did they help constitute the international meaning of the Revolution? This project is motivated by answers to these questions and uses individual Hungarian refugee trajectories to unpack new insights on the Cold War, as well as how the Cold War obscured other concerns at the time – for instance, decolonization and processing the memories of the Second World War.

Cold War; Rockefeller Foundation

Higher Education, Private Philanthropy, and Music Patronage in the Mid-Twentieth Century

July 18, 2022

This report offers evidence of key actors' strategies to forge a new union between new music and higher education as means to solve the economic instability of performing arts organizations and artists in the mid-twentieth century. Their rationale and resulting programming established American higher education institutions as the main site of creative music-making. Additionally, their decisions implicated the style and genre of music in higher education. Specifically, Rockefeller Foundation trustees emphasized the importance of continuing high arts cultural patronage in the style of European aristocrats in the sixteenth through early nineteenth centuries; and officers of the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation advocated for improving the quality of, and access to, music education of the same repertoire. Their impacts cemented higher education music departments and schools of music as sites of elite, white culture into the twenty-first century.

Academic Research and Education; Music; Rockefeller Foundation

Life’s Networks and the American Art World

June 17, 2022

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.

Art; Journalism; Mass Communications; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family

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

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

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

Showing 12 of 151 results

arrow_upward