Recognizing the importance of a strong library to support the work of an international organization and to serve as “a centre of international research and an instrument of international understanding,” John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated USD 2 million in 1927 for the construction and endowment of the Library of the League of Nations, which became the Library of the UN Office at Geneva in 1946.
On 10 September 2012, the United Nations Office at Geneva commemorated the 85th anniversary of Rockefeller’s donation with an event officiated by the Secretary-General and with the participation of UNOG Director-General Kassym-Jomart Tokayev; U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, Ambassador Betty E. King; and Mr. Michael Rockefeller, great-grandson of the philanthropist.
In line with the Secretary-General’s directive to “harness the full power of partnership,” the commemoration paid tribute to the legacy of the Rockefeller family and other philanthropists to the United Nations and other international organizations, connecting visionary philanthropy to present-day success stories.
The UNOG Library is one of these success stories. In his remarks, the Secretary-General emphasized: “This Library traces its lineage from the past century – but it is also moving forward into the future. As a modern centre of excellence, this Library contributes to the [Rockefeller] Foundation’s goal of informing citizens who can make a difference in our world.”
As part of the celebration, a new reading room was inaugurated and dedicated to the visionary philanthropist. The John D. Rockefeller Jr. League of Nations and United Nations Archives Reading Room
prominently displays a portrait of the philanthropist, a generous gift that Mr. David Rockefeller said he hoped would serve as a reminder not only of his father’s generosity – but more importantly of his conviction that strong international organizations can help create a just, equitable and peaceful world. As Mr. Michael Rockefeller wrote in the Library's guest book: “The Library has been and continues to be an important representation of my family’s vision for global peace.”
In the new state-of-the-art reading room, staff and researchers not only have direct access to original historical documents and archives, but also to the important digital collections and catalogues available online
The day’s events continued in the League of Nations Museum, with the opening of an exhibition entitled For the Well –Being of Mankind: Philanthropy and Multilateralism
. The exhibition highlights the essential role played by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace between 1920 and 1945 in the key technical activities of the League of Nations. The invaluable archival documents displayed offer a unique opportunity to see how crucial philanthropy and partnerships were and still are today for the United Nations and other entities of the international system.
The League of Nations Museum, located within UNOG Library in the Palais des Nations, is open to the public Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm.
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Rockefeller’s generosity and foresight made possible not only the construction of the Library building, but also development, protection, and accessibility of important historical and current collections. In the words of the Director-General, it “allowed the Library, including its League of Nations Museum and Archives, to become one of the greatest resources of International Geneva.” Among the collections are the priceless historical treasures of the Archives of the League of Nations, inscribed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.
Organized with UNOG’s key partner, the Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, these events offered an occasion to acknowledge the long history of philanthropic contributions in key areas of international cooperation.
Picture gallery of the commemoration of the 85th Anniversary of the Rockefeller Donation to the League of Nations
Video about the event, produced by the Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva
Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General, UNOG
Ms. Betty King, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva
Mr. Michael Rockefeller, Great-Grandson of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.