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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Report on Research Examining the Ford Foundation’s Influence on the Producing Model of US Regional Theaters

June 9, 2021

This report provides draft excerpts from my PhD research on the evolving relationship between US regional theaters and the New York-based cluster of legitimate commercial theaters and producers, collectively known as "Broadway," between 1947 and 2017. After World War II, Broadway had near total control over the professional production and regional distribution of new plays and musicals. In response to this stranglehold, there were calls to decentralize the American theater. The resident (or regional) theater movement that eventually arrived in response to these calls is generally credited to the massive investments, technical assistance, and public advocacy of the Ford Foundation. Between 1959 and 1980, the Foundation awarded approximately $31.5 million in support of strengthening resident professional theater. Material from the Ford Foundation (FF) archives collected at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) contributes to a chapter in my dissertation examining how requirements, constraints, and forms of support provided by the FF shaped the first generation of modern resident theaters, including their relationship with Broadway. To that end, two questions are currently motivating my review and analysis of documents collected in the FF collection: (1) Did financial support, technical assistance, and the imprimatur proffered by the FF strengthen or weaken the agency of resident theaters vis-à-vis Broadway? (2) Did the FF's support encourage resident theaters to adopt structures, policies, practices, goals, and beliefs that ultimately confined them to fulfilling a distributary (franchise) or tryout (farm club) function vis-à-vis Broadway, rather than the tributary (independent feeder) role that regional theaters were once imagined to fulfill?

Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation

Searching for Female Agency among Documents: Postwar Japanese Female Intellectuals and Their Network

May 11, 2021

Since the late 1980s and 1990s, the research field of the cultural Cold War has flourished and produced numerous works in the United States and in other countries. This development has inspired studies on Japanese culture during and after the occupation in the context of Cold War cultural policies, which, programmed and conducted by various US agencies both public and private, provided the arena of hegemonic negotiation. Representative works include: Fumiko Fujita, Amerika Bunka Gaiko to Nihon: Reisenki no Bunka to Hito no Koryu [U.S. Cultural Diplomacy and Japan in the Cold War Era] (2015), Takeshi Matsuda, Soft Power and Its Perils: U.S. Cultural Policy in Early Postwar Japan and Permanent Dependency (2007), Yuka Moriguchi Tsuchiya, Military Occupation as Pedagogy: the U.S. Re-education and Reorientation Policy for Occupied Japan, 1945-1952 (2005). This scholarship has treated cultural policies as something functional and instrumental in the reconstruction of post-war Japanese subjectivity. In the field of American literary studies as well, this vantage point has been shared since the 2000s.  What has not been fully explored, however, is the fact that there were women deeply involved in this process, working as a kind of agent: as translators, librarians, and others who had mediating functions. The aim of this research project is to explore and to trace this network of "book women," which was generated and reinforced in the process of the Rockefeller Foundation's philanthropic projects for US-Japan cultural relationship.  What has not been fully explored, however, is the fact that there were women deeply involved in this process, working as a kind of agent: as translators, librarians, and others who had mediating functions. The aim of this research project is to explore and to trace this network of "book women," which was generated and reinforced in the process of the Rockefeller Foundation's philanthropic projects for US-Japan cultural relationship.

Charles B. Fahs Papers; John D. Rockefeller 3rd Papers; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

The Aesthetics of Scientific Neutrality

March 25, 2021

On February 9th, 1932, the Rockefeller family's new Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in Manhattan, opened its first architectural exhibition, "Modern Architecture: International Exhibition (1932)," curated by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock. While the Museum would soon be leveraged to create connections between Latin America and the United States, beginning with Mexico in particular, "Modern Architecture" focused exclusively on designs realized within the Global North in order to challenge Europe's modern architectural hegemony, while shaping the aesthetic choices of US architects and the general public. Though the exhibition was a resounding success in its time, its co-publication, The International Style (1932), conceived by Barr and Hitchcock before the decision to launch the exhibition, has ensured the circulation of the curators' concerns over the intervening decades.

Rockefeller Foundation

The Music and Performing Arts Programs of the Rockefeller Foundation

March 8, 2021

The Rockefeller Foundation had originally left out much grantmaking to the arts during the first decades of its operations, instead devoting greater resources to efforts such as the alleviation of global hunger, the expansion of access to public libraries, or the eradication of hookworm. Its support of music prior to the 1950s had totaled less than $200,000 over four decades. After the Second World War, however, it began giving substantial funds to the arts and humanities. The Rockefeller Foundation funded projects in new music, like commissions made by the Louisville Orchestra, operas and ballets at New York's City Center, and the work of the "creative associates" at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In total, between 1953 and 1976, the Rockefeller Foundation granted more than $40 million ($300 million in 2017) to the field of music alone. 

Music; Performing Arts; Rockefeller Foundation

Politics of the Past: Archaeology, Nationalism, and Diplomacy in Afghanistan, 1919–2001

July 27, 2020

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.

Archaeology; Art; Art History; Asia Society; International Relations

The Ford Foundation and Post-Independence Indian Theatre

July 15, 2020

With the research stipend from the Rockefeller Archive Center, initially, my intended research was to focus on theatre in Palestine. While Palestinian theatre is a worthwhile subject, I found that the Rockefeller Archive Center had a greater volume of archived records pertaining to theatre in India. As a result, I embarked on research with a concentration on the work of philanthropic organizations and their role in the India's cultural development in the latter half of the twentieth century. Thus, I reconstructed a narrative of the history of the Indian theatre.

Ford Foundation; Performing Arts; Theatre

Colonial Williamsburg from World Peace to World War

January 17, 2020

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.

"Verbal Opposition… Encouraged by the Powerful": Private Philanthropy and the Cultural Cold War

October 17, 2019

On February 29, 1968, readers of the New York Review of Books would encounter a stirring indictment of the United States of America: In an open letter, titled "On Leaving America," and addressed to Wesleyan University president Edwin D. Etherington, the German writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger publicly renounced a fellowship that sponsored his stay at the school. America's activities in Vietnam made it so that Enzensberger could no longer accept the support from Wesleyan, while millions of Vietnamese suffered. Instead, the politically committed writer would take to Cuba to see if he could somehow contribute to its revolutionary transformation. "Verbal opposition is today in danger of becoming a harmless spectator sport, licensed, well-regulated and, up to a point, even encouraged by the powerful," Enzensberger writes in conclusion. Supported by a respectable American institution of higher learning, Enzensberger felt disarmed in his opposition, adding that "the mere fact of my being here on these terms would devalue whatever I might have to say."

Funding the "Creative Minority": John Marshall, Füreya Koral, and Modern Art in the Middle East

September 20, 2019

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.

Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller: Muse of the Museum of Modern Art

March 15, 2018

"The role of women in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has been a vital one from the day the idea was first conceived," observed David Rockefeller to a small gathering in a newly dedicated gallery on the recently expanded third floor of New York's MoMA on December 7, 1987. "[And] we are here today to give thanks and praise to [an] amazing and dedicated lady who . . . since she became President of the Museum for a second time in 1972, has probably had a greater impact on the evolution of MoMA both internally and externally than any other one individual."The setting, in fact, was the dedication of a gallery designated for abstract expressionist art in whose honor the space was named, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller. Thirty years after that ceremony, thousands of patrons continue to mill through the delicately lit space, some soothed by the muted cardinal color of an outsized Barnet Newman canvas, others stirred by a Jackson Pollack oeuvre, most unaware of the singular influence of the gallery's namesake on the museum's history itself.

Egyptological Conversations about Race and Science

February 15, 2018

In 1908, when James Henry Breasted published ancient copies of some Biblical texts, he hoped that one interested reader would be Booker T. Washington. Breasted wrote to Washington to bring the matter to his attention, providing him with a copy of the article and explaining its general content. At that time, Washington was preoccupied with the aftermath of an injustice done to black soldiers stationed in Brownsville, Texas, and the subsequent refusal of Theodore Roosevelt, whom Washington had formerly advised, to undo the damage to the men's reputations, careers, and futures. Nonetheless, Washington replied to Breasted the following week, expressing his polite interest in the matter and noting that although he had not had the time to acquaint himself with the ancient history of Ethiopia, he noted that many West African traditions traced their cultural heritage to "a distant place in the direction of ancient Ethiopia." Washington wondered if that "distant place" and the subject matter of Breasted's article could be one and the same. "Could it be possible that these civilizing influences had their sources in this ancient Ethiopian kingdom to which your article refers?" If Washington saw ancient "Ethiopia," that is, the southern Nile River Valley, also known as the Upper Nile, Nubia, and in contemporary political designation the Sudan, as the source of other African people's culture, Breasted would have concurred.

Project A and Beyond: The Role of the Rockefeller Foundation in the Rise of Microfilm

February 6, 2018

In 1927, the Library of Congress (LOC) started a comprehensive project of copying manuscripts related to the history of the United States and the Americas, stored in the libraries, archives and museums of several European countries. Internally referred to as "Project A", research assistants ventured out in order to select and superintend the systematic photographing of masses of documents preserved in institutional and private collections throughout Europe. Project A was financed through a substantial grant from the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) for an initial period of seven years and resulted in over three million still images. The LOC made ample use of microphotography, a photographic technique that was not new, but subject to major improvements starting in the 1920s. These improvements concerned the camera and projector technology as well as the development of fire-resistant celluloid acetate film as a purportedly stable image carrier. Compared to manual copying and earlier forms of reproduction photography, such as Photostat duplication, the storage of visual data on light-weight and flexible 16mm, 35mm and 70mm film rolls enabled the reproduction of entire books, journals, newspapers, individual documents or bits of information.

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