Introducing the George Gerbner Archive

The Annenberg Library is pleased to announce the opening of the George Gerbner Archive to communications students and researchers at Penn and around the world. George Gerbner was the second dean of The Annenberg School for Communication from 1964-1989 and one of the pioneering founders of the field of Communication as a scholarly pursuit. As Joseph Turow, the Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication, writing for Americana in 2006 explains:

[George]Gerbner believed it was crucial to understand the social impact of these mass-produced daydreams [television fiction] because they likely influenced the hierarchy of values as they developed in our minds, particularly in the minds of young people. The key was not to dwell on the positive or negative aspects of individual television shows, movies or songs. Instead, Gerbner insisted, because popular culture is mass-produced, it should be analyzed as a system of industrially patterned, rather than idiosyncratic or artistic, messages. With the “message system” as a central concept, communication research should pursue three fundamental goals: explore the forces that shape the pattern of messages; examine the overall nature of those message patterns; and understand the social roles or functions that those patterns play in society.
— Industrial Folklore George Gerbner’s (Tele)Vision, Americana, Summer 2006

The George Gerbner Archive consists of personal correspondence, research and administrative materials, reports, publications, news clippings, photographs, and memorabilia related to George Gerbner (1916-2006) and his work as a world-renowned media scholar and dean of the Annenberg School. The collection is rich in material concerning the Cultural Indicators Project, Gerbner’s pioneering analysis of television violence and cultivation theory, and the Cultural Environment Movement, a media advocacy organization founded by Gerbner in 1991.

The collection was donated to the Annenberg School in 2006 by Gerbner’s sons, John and Thomas. The collection reflects Gerbner’s prodigious research agenda and leadership as a scholar, administrator, and activist over a period of four decades. The collection consists of the following series: Biography, Cultural Indicators Project, Cultural Environmental Movement, Publications, Correspondence, Instructional Materials, Clippings, Photographs, Unpublished Materials, and Secondary Publications.

Appointments can be made to view materials that are not available online by contacting the Annenberg Library.

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