Research at the RBML | Lisa Rabin uses the Carnegie Collections to investigate the history of area studies

Lisa Rabin recently visited the RBML as part of her project investigating how area students developed over the course of the 20th century. Her project, titled “Wiring the World Classroom: Paired Mandates in 16mm and Area Studies, 1925-1990” draws on the vast Carnegie Foundation records. Below, she shares some of what she discovered…

What brings you to Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library?

I am researching Carnegie Foundation records on their grants for area studies at US universities over the course of the 20th century. In particular, I am looking for evidence on Carnegie’s overlapping commitments to 16 mm (non-theatrical) film education and area studies.  

How long have you been using RBML materials (for this and/or previous research)?

I have been to RBML once before, in 2014, but that time was only exploratory. This is the first time that I have identified (and found!) specific evidence relevant to a research project.

What have you found? Did you come here knowing this material was here?

I am very excited to have discovered a document specifically referencing area studies and 16mm. This was in a Carnegie grant folder concerning the film producer and distributor, Julien Bryan from 1947. I knew that the folder existed, but I didn’t know that there would be such explicit language on Carnegie’s intention to survey the use of 16mm in university area studies programs. Although I didn’t find specific evidence on 16mm projects in the folders concerning Carnegie’s grants to area studies, those documents were illuminating on the extent to which specific universities received funding. My next step is to investigate university archives, including Columbia’s, which receive a great deal of funding for Russian studies. 

What advice do you have for other researchers or students interested in using RBML’s special collections?

I received very valuable insight and advice  from the Research Librarians during my visit! I suggest that researchers and students take the opportunity to consult with Librarians on site.

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