A vast collection on Brazilian health and science

November, 2017

Vivian Mannheimer| História Ciências Saúde Manguinhos Blog

The Rockefeller Archive Center is a major repository and research center for the study of philanthropy and its impact throughout the world. Its collections consist of approximately 125 million pages of documents and it also includes reels of microfilm, photographs, digital data, audiovisual material, maps, blueprints, posters and films.

Many of the collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center are of great interest to Brazilian researchers. They feature extensive records, starting in the 1910s, on the Foundation’s work on public health in Brazil, its involvement with medical and nurse’s training in the country as well as the installation of a virus laboratory in Belém during the 1950s and 1960s.

“D.N.S.P. – Servico de Febre Amarela, Rio – Maio de 1934, Fate – Voltaire de Alva” 100 Years: The Rockefeller Foundation

To research in its archives, it is possible to apply for the Consortium fellowships in the history of science and medicine, that will count on a new funding from the Wellcome trust to support researchers from Brazil South Africa and India. Applications for the next round of fellowships must be submitted online by 1 May 2018. See how to apply:

Lee R Hiltzik, Assistant Director at the Rockefeller Archive Center provided details about the collection and explained how it can be useful to Brazilian researchers of the history of medicine and science.

What kind of content is only available in the Rockefeller Archive Center?

The Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) was founded in 1974 as the official repository of the papers of the Rockefeller Family, and the records of the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Rockefeller University.

From the time of its establishment, the mission of the RAC has been to preserve and make available for research the archival collections of these organizations. The vision for RAC was to encourage inquiry and research, and that accessibility to the story of the Rockefellers and their benevolence would not only be an important resource to scholars but would also highlight the impact of philanthropy on society.

As part of this initial goal, the RAC has collected the records of other institutions and organizations founded by Rockefeller family members (Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, General Education Board, International Education Board, Asian Cultural Council, Population Council, Asia Society, and many other organizations).

Beginning in the mid-1980s, the collecting scope of the RAC has expanded to include important non-Rockefeller non-profits and foundations. The Center is now the archival repository for the records of the Ford Foundation as well as for other philanthropic and service organizations such as the Commonwealth Fund, Russell Sage Foundation, Foundation for Child Development, W.T. Grant Foundation, Markle Foundation, the Social Science Research Council and the Foundation Center.

The Center also holds extensive collections of the personal papers of trustees, officers, faculty, and associates who were affiliated with these institutions. Our collections currently consist of approximately 125 million pages of documents, 18,000 reels of microfilm, 1,000,000 photographs, 45 terabytes of digital data, 15,000 audiovisual items, 6,000 maps, blueprints, and posters, and 5,000 films. The Rockefeller Archive Center is visited annually by approximately 400 researchers, and our archival staff handle over 1,000 offsite reference requests each year.

What makes this collection unique?

The scope of the work of foundations and other non-profits are all documented in the collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center. The resources that they provided through grants to organizations and institutions, as well as support of a variety of governmental programs around the world are recorded here. These foundations also funded numerous fellowship programs, supporting scholars and experts in virtual all fields of knowledge.

In addition to the grant files and fellowship files, these collections also include board minutes, official diaries, oral histories, and various program files for the foundations, all valuable to understand the inner workings and the decision-making processes within these organizations.

Extensive correspondence files highlight the complex web of networking of the trustees, administrators and program officers for the foundations with political, academic, and other philanthropic leaders around the world. In many cases, the archives of RAC hold documentation of government policies, institutional decisions and actions, and individuals’ careers for which the associated documentation within these countries and organizations has either been destroyed or is otherwise inaccessible.

How this collection can be useful for Brazilian researchers of history of science, technology and medicine?

Many of the collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center have been in the past, and will continue to be of great interest to Brazilian researchers.

Relating to Brazil, our holdings in the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) Archives, include extensive records, starting in the 1910s on RF field work in public health and collaboration with Brazilian authorities in these activities.

Efforts against such diseases as malaria and yellow fever have extensive documentation, much of it undertaken by the International Health Board (later known as the International Health Division). The Rockefeller Foundation was also heavily involved with medical education and nurses’ training there. In addition, the RF maintained a virus laboratory in Belem during the 1950s and 1960s.

Both the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation also supported intensively the development of academic programs in the sciences and social sciences in many universities in Brazil. In addition, the RF and Ford provided extensive funding for tropical agriculture research and the establishment of international centers for these programs, all of which had a major impact of Brazilian agricultural practices.

These foundations, along with the Population Council, were actively involved with family planning and reproductive science research, that also impacted Brazilian social policy. In Rockefeller Family-related collections, the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA) and the International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC) were heavily involved with a number of rural development and economics projects in Brazil.

Nelson Rockefeller’s personal papers reflect his deep involvement with the work of these organizations in the development of Brazil’s resources and economy. In the later decades of the twentieth century till today, the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund have all provided extensive support for studies and programs related to environmental issues important to Brazil, such as the protection of the Amazonian region and its indigenous population

The depth and breadth of the archival collections at the Rockefeller Archive Center also provide Brazilian scholars the opportunity to study broader comparative and transnational topics in the history of the science, technology, medicine, and the social sciences.

Important research possibilities include the study of various international intellectual networks in these fields. For example, the papers of many of the faculty and scientific researchers at the Rockefeller University reflect their international connections with Brazilian counterparts.

Hideyo Noguchi, Theodosius Dobzhansky and Paul Lewis, are three examples of scientists of international stature with intense commitments to Brazilian science and medical research. The richness of our records also provide important opportunities to study cross-national concerns, beyond the Brazilian context alone, in such areas as agrarian development, public health, nutrition and hunger, the development and expertise in the social sciences, and the role of government actions in these arenas.

The intersections beyond national boundaries go in many directions for Brazilian researchers; scholars have access to a wealth of complementary records for all other nations in Latin America, for tropical regions throughout the world, and within the context of global organizations and NGOS.

The Rockefeller Archive Center looks forward to a growing stream of Brazilian scholars conducting research at our facility and exploring the scope of our archival holdings. Through the auspices of programs such as the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, we are proud that our institution can serve as a catalyst for creating an informal community of scholars from Brazil, who have a shared experience of immersing themselves in our records, in their quest for a deeper understanding of the impact of philanthropy on science, medicine, technology, and the social sciences.

How to cite this interview:

Hiltzik, L.R; Mannheimer, V. A vast collection on Brazilian health and science – Manguinhos blog, 2017. http://www.revistahcsm.coc.fiocruz.br/english/a-vast-collection-on-brazilian-health/

See in our blog:

Fellowships in the history of medicine for Brazilian researchers – We interviewed Dr. Babak Ashrafi, President of the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine. He talked about its rare book collections and the elements of a successful application.

Fellowships for scholars of Brazil, India and South Africa – These fellowships will be for research in history of medicine and in medical humanities using the collections of leading North-American institutions.

Early medicine in the Wellcome library – With expert articles on disease, disability, weelbeing and other subjects, the Wellcome Library website offers information about medicine and health in Europe before 1700.

Open access, internationalization, funding and social media – The symposium “21st century challenges for history of science and history of medicine journals” was held during the 25th ICHST.

“It is crucial to understand the social context of health and disease” – João Rangel de Almeida, of the Wellcome Trust, talks about the role of humanities and social sciences to improve health and about several projects supported by Wellcome in Low-and-Middle-Income-Countries.

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