Carnegie Corporation Oral History Project

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About the Project

The Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH) is currently conducting an oral history project to document the history of the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY) under the tenure of President Vartan Gregorian, beginning in the late 1990s and continuing through the present. The CCNY Oral History Project will involve interviews with approximately 40 selected CCNY leaders, including the president and vice-presidents, trustees, key staff, program officers, project partners, grant recipients and others in order to accomplish an in-depth history of the Corporation during Dr. Gregorian’s tenure. The project will be conducted between October 2011 and September 2013 and will produce 150 hours of interview, including a significant amount recorded on video.

Focusing on Dr. Gregorian’s fifteen-year tenure as President of CCNY will provide a close examination of the growth and development of the programs and initiatives that represent the Corporation’s philanthropic work, including its ongoing efforts to develop libraries and library resources in Africa, support individual scholarship on global topics, and strengthen civic education and immigrant integration in the U.S. It will offer the opportunity for staff and trustees to talk more broadly about philanthropic response to sudden tragedies such as September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina and management of endowments in times of economic recession. Finally, it will explore CCNY’s leadership in the emerging realm of global philanthropy, including inter-foundation partnerships for the Centers for Advanced Research and Scholarship in Eurasia and the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, the development of short-term initiatives on the Future of Journalism Education and public scholarship on Islam, and the application of expert knowledge to international peacebuilding efforts and improving the quality of education in New York City high schools.

The Center for Oral History has conducted two previous oral histories of the Corporation; when completed, the Carnegie Corporation Oral History Project will span the 100-year history of Carnegie’s philanthropic history. Phase One began in 1966 and was completed in 1974. The 479 hours of testimony and 9,948 pages of transcript gathered in this phase reflect the thinking of Corporation officers, staff members, and grantees and offer a rich portrait of the Corporation's evolution over the first 58 years of its existence. The interviewees discuss the organization's work in adult education, cognitive research, educational testing, library science, music education, national security, teacher education, and social-science research. Phase Two of the project, begun in 1996, traces the continuity of many of these programs across the second half of the twentieth century and the Corporation's expansion into global funding strategies in the areas of peace, scientific research, and international cooperation. Phase Two resulted in 216 hours of testimony, including 52 hours of video interviews that allowed CCOH to explore the public and scholarly dimensions of oral history on video format.

The continued collection of interviews and archival material from CCNY throughout Phase Three not only adds to the documentation of the foundation’s history but adds to the growing scholarly field of philanthropic studies and provides the means for scholars to embark on in-depth research into the history of CCNY and philanthropy as a whole, including its impact on policy and the long-term dynamics that affect the work of grantees.