The Atlantic Philanthropies Archives at Cornell University
Housed at the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC) at Cornell University Library, our Archives are comprised of the paper and digital records kept at our offices in New York City, Ithaca, Bermuda, Dublin, Belfast, London, and Johannesburg. In the Archives, researchers can find the following types of records:
Corporate records covering the foundation’s grantmaking and operational strategies; decisions to emerge from anonymity and limit its lifespan in keeping with Chuck Feeney’s belief in Giving While Living; and steps taken to wind down the foundation’s work.
Grantmaking records spanning $8+ billion directed primarily to 8 regions around the world. Records document the entire life cycle of 6,500 grants to nearly 2,500 grantees from proposals to final reports, supplemented by files of its executives and program officers.
Stories of impact, evaluations and lessons learned captured in reports, case studies, and a wide range of print, video and visual formats.
While our many publications give insight on the work we’ve accomplished, the lessons we’ve learned, and our “Giving While Living” philosophy, the Atlantic Philanthropies Archives provide a comprehensive roadmap of our operations– warts and all. The files housed in the Archives chart Atlantic’s evolution over four decades. They also shed light on the processes and decisions behind grants and program areas, as well as the later challenges inherent in going public and spending down. While the archives are a rich resource for those working in philanthropy, they are also value to academics and experts whose fields of interests lie within the large geographic and thematic scope of Atlantic’s grant making. Subjects include, but are not limited to post-Apartheid South Africa, marriage equality in the Republic of Ireland, and the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It is important to note that many of the issues that Atlantic sought to counter through its grantmaking remain topical today, particularly in regards to social, racial, and health inequities. While Atlantic’s operations have come to an end, the records we have left can continue the trajectory of the work we have accomplished and can continue to serve the diverse populations impacted by Atlantic’s grantmaking.
More information on the Atlantic Philanthropies Archives can be found on RMC’s website. Inquiries may also be made to Phoebe Kowalewski, the Atlantic Philanthropies Project Archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supplementing the Archives are two collaborations with curation partners created in order to further capture the complex the narrative of Atlantic’s history.
Digital Repository of Ireland
In 2020, the Digital Repository of Ireland, in collaboration with Cornell University Library, launched Amplifying change: a history of the Atlantic Philanthropies on the island of Ireland, an online exhibition that showcases the work Atlantic did on the island in the areas of Human Rights, Education, and Communications. In addition to featuring digitized records from the Atlantic Philanthropies Archives, the exhibition includes expert essays, and oral histories of individuals impacted by Atlantic’s Funding.
The project was funded by a three year grant by Atlantic.
The Oral History Research Office at Columbia University recorded interviews for the Atlantic Philanthropies Oral History Project, beginning the first phase of the project in 2005. Interviewees include Atlantic Philanthropies executives, business associates of Chuck Feeney, institutional partners, and grantees. Chuck Feeney himself was interviewed during this phase. Interviews were focused on documenting Feeney’s life, with particular focus on the creation of Duty Free Shoppers, the establishment of Atlantic Philanthropies, and Feeney’s philosophy of “Giving While Living”. Upon its completion in 2008, the first phase contained over 560 hours of testimony given by 138 different narrators.
In 2014, the Columbia Center for Oral History Research at INCITE (formerly OHRO) received a grant from Atlantic Philanthropies to conduct a second set of interviews. Interviews for Phase II were taken between 2014 and 2016, with the focus on documenting the last years of Atlantic’s existence, particularly the changes in its grantmaking, as well as the challenges inherent in becoming a spend-down foundation. Phase II contains 142 oral history sessions with 84 narrators totaling 220 recorded hours. In 2018, Columbia sent digital copies of the recordings and their transcripts to Cornell University’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.