The Archives Program of the Rockefeller Archive Center fosters and supports a broad community of users examining the history of philanthropy and its related endeavors. We acquire, preserve, make accessible, and encourage research and scholarship in the papers and records in our care, while promoting effective records and information management practices within foundations. We engage in and advance the archival profession by ensuring that our staff participates broadly in professional activities and organizations. We lead by example in the use and dissemination of open source information management tools, and we advocate for open access to information in all its forms.
The Archives Program achieves this mission through five interconnected function areas that represent the lifecycle of records, from creation and use within an organization to acquisition and public accessibility as archives at the Center: the Records and Information Management Program, Collections Management, Processing, Reference, and Digital Strategies.
Records and Information Management Program
The Records and Information Management Program uses the information governance framework to promote effective information management as an essential practice at the RAC, the institutions whose records we collect, and across the broader foundation community. We champion effective stewardship of information assets during the active part of their lifecycle to ensure they are stored, accessed, and disposed of in a manner that supports current organizational needs as well as institutional knowledge and learning. We empower records creators to develop information management policies and practices based on an institution’s shared definition of how systems are used and the recognition that content rather than format determines record status.
Collections Management provides the critical physical control and the initial descriptive point of access to our diverse and multi-format archival holdings while taking into account the needs of the materials themselves. Through careful preservation and monitoring of our collections, we strive to extend the lifecycle while sustaining the integrity of the collections. We serve as a resource for preserving the Center’s audiovisual collections and for making these unique resources accessible to our users. We also maintain and support the Center’s library of published materials documenting the products and legacy of our donors as an important supplemental resource for users of our archival holdings.
The Processing team establishes and enhances intellectual and physical control of our archival holdings by effectively and efficiently organizing, describing, and preserving all eligible materials, regardless of form, medium, or creator, to facilitate user access. We ensure timely, open, and equitable access to primary sources on site and online. We actively promote the use and understanding of the historical record through the collection guides we create in accordance with DACS descriptive standards, and all program policies and procedures foster accountability and transparency. The Processing team commits to culturally competent descriptive practices, as we acknowledge that our collections and the archival descriptions we create are shaped by racial, gendered, and other cultural identities and biases. We aim to describe materials representing marginalized, underrepresented, and historically oppressed people and cultures appropriately and respectfully. As we learn and grow through professional development, we seek opportunities to contribute to the archival profession and collaborate with practitioners in related fields.
The Reference Team promotes the accessibility and discoverability of archival collections to our users. By responding to inquiries, educating researchers and donors on the scope and structure of the collections, and providing physical access through our reading rooms, duplication services, and digitization processes, we establish a genuine connection between our community of users and our holdings.
The Digital Strategies team leads the ethical application of technology in all aspects of the RAC’s work by connecting people to systems and expertise. We develop, implement, and maintain the organization’s archival systems and digital infrastructure; build capacity through training designed to empower our colleagues; center user perspectives to continually improve the usability and accessibility of our systems and collections; and participate in professional communities to further our work and the archival profession.
Research & Education Program
The Research and Education Program (R+E) at the RAC brings together historians, educators, and archivists to explore issues in the history of philanthropy for public, scholarly, and professional audiences and to cultivate new audiences for archival research. The team’s activities include digital publishing, conferences and workshops, educational outreach, practitioner engagement, and a competitive research stipend program. R+E helps further the RAC mission of access by providing a narrative entry into RAC archival collections and fostering broad engagement with the history of philanthropy.
The division’s flagship website, RE:source, examines the role philanthropy has played in the world we live in today. From the civil rights movement to the development of business schools, from dance and theater to overseas agricultural development, private money has affected myriad aspects of social, political, economic, and cultural life both in the U.S. and globally. The aim of RE:source is to bring stories from the history of philanthropy to the general public as well as a foundation practitioner audience.
Through other activities, R+E works regularly with foundation staff and leadership, providing historical perspectives on philanthropic practice and program evolution. The team often serves as a bridge between practice and scholarship by contributing new research to scholarly communities at professional conferences and by organizing workshops and convenings on emerging issues in the fields of history, archives, and philanthropy. Each year, the R+E Program administers a competitive stipend program, which provides travel reimbursement funds to researchers from around the world. These awards enable some fifty researchers annually to travel to Sleepy Hollow to work in the RAC collections.
Through R+E’s Archival Education Program, the team develops archive projects with local schools that serve as laboratories for curriculum development. We work with students ranging in level from middle and high school to undergraduate. The open educational resources developed in these classrooms are hosted on OER Commons, and include documents, photographs, posters, advertisements, and film clips drawn from RAC holdings. The materials cover a range of topics such as voter education, wartime scholar rescue efforts, immigration, and scientific innovation. In addition to topical interest, these curricula support the development of interdisciplinary research as well as digital and information literacy skills.