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New School School of Media Studies records

 Record Group
Identifier: NS-02-05-01


The School of Media Studies began as the Center for Understanding Media. Accredited through Antioch College, the program offered courses through the New School for Social Research. The New School formally absorbed Media Studies in 1975, after a four-year partnership. The records consist of curricula vitae, files, reports, syllabi, posters and other printed publicity materials, and student work.


  • circa 1970-2019
  • Majority of material found within 1990 - 2008



6.6 Cubic Feet (5 boxes, 24 oversized folders)

1.9 Gigabytes (13 files migrated from 4 DVDs)

Language of Materials


Scope and Content of Collection

These records consist of general office files from the School of Media Studies. They are not the records of a particular administrator or faculty member and document the activitities of various functional areas of Media Studies, including student recruitment and selection, event promotion, and faculty affairs. The bulk of the files date from the mid-1990s to approximately 2008. There is little documentation representing the first two decades of the program, apart from print advertising materials and two typescripts that may have been added to the files long after their creation (Kit Laybourne's "A Definition for Media Studies," 1972 and John Culkin's, "The New Literacy," 1977). With the exception of four DVDs containing student films and promotional material, the records do not contain any digital files.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use, except for a small number of files that are restricted because they contain student grades. Restricted files are identified in the Collection Inventory. Some digital files may be accessed onsite only in The New School Archives. Please contact for appointment or to inquire about access restrictions.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Historical Note

The School of Media Studies at The New School began as the Center for Understanding Media, one of the first programs of its kind in the United States. Founded by John Culkin in 1969 as a New York City-based satellite of Ohio’s Antioch College, the Center’s mission as stated in a 1971 brochure was:

The Center specializes in projects involving young people and the new media. It works to develop critical and active consumers for the various forms of communication and to integrate teaching about the new media with teaching about literature and the traditional arts . . . [The Center] specializes in training teachers to serve the needs of this new media studies curriculum.

Culkin served as the original executive director of the Center with Robert Geller as director of education and Lawrence ("Kit") Laybourne as director of research. The Center received its accreditation through Antioch College's Graduate School of Education and granted graduate-level credits.

During a four-year partnership between the Center and the New School for Social Research, under the leadership of Dean Allen Austill, the Center was allocated classrooms at the New School in return for opening up its classes to New School students. Teacher training in media studies was the focus of the Center's classes at the New School. It was during this affiliation that the Center hired several key staff, including Laybourne and Peter L. Haratonik, both former schoolteachers. Laybourne taught the theory course Foundations in Media Design, as well as practical courses in animation technique. Haratonik began as education program coordinator and instructor of the Seminar in Media Theory. When Haratonik started at the Center, he was still studying with educator and media theorist Neil Postman in the Media Ecology program at New York University, another early media studies program. He received a doctorate in Culture and Communication from that program.

The Center for Understanding Media officially became part of the New School for Social Research in 1975, which launched a Master of Arts in Media Studies in 1978. Sometime after 2007, the department was reclassified as the School of Media Studies, situated in the division that, as of 2016, is known as the Schools of Public Engagement (for many years the division was referred to as the Adult Division). Haratonik succeeded Culkin as director in 1979 and served in this capacity until 1992. Departmental leadership since 1992 includes Linda Dunne and Elizabeth Wurtzel (acting co-chairs), Carole Wilder, Barry Salmon, and, as of 2014, Anne Balsamo.

As of 2016, the department sponsors several annual events. It began sponsoring an invitational film show of judged student work in 1979. In 2003, this was renamed the Dorothy H. Hirshon Film Festival after a specific bequest from her foundation. In 2010, the name of the annual show was changed to Fine Cuts. In 1996, the department launched the annual Mixed Messages Video Show. Media Studies' annual conference, Critical Themes in Media Studies, began in 2000. Throughout the department’s history, it has sponsored several recurring lecture series, including the Gregory Bateson Lecture, begun in 1995, and the Marshall McLuhan Lecture, begun in the 1990s. These series have brought guests such as Helen M. Caldicott, Atom Egoyan, and Sherry Turkle to The New School.

The Media Studies program issues a Master of Arts degree and a Master of Science degree, as well as undergraduate and graduate certificates in screenwriting, film production, media management, and documentary media studies. The program continues to offer instruction that encompasses the study of media theory and practice, specializing in media analysis and production across all formats, including film, television, sound production and design, and web-based media.

This historical note was compiled from information present in the record group, in addition to Media Studies course catalogs, oral histories, John Culkin's obituary in the New York Times, and the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC) blog (

Organization and Arrangement

Archives staff have organized the records into four series based upon the administrative functions represented by the files: 1. Curricula vitae; 2. Promotion; 3. Subject files; 4. Syllabi. Within each series, files are arranged either alphabetically or chronologically. See series-level scope and content notes for further details.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the School of Media Studies to the New School Archives and Special Collections, 2013.

Posters from 2014 collected by librarian Carmen Hendershott and added to record group, 2015.

Related Materials

The New School Archives and Special Collections holds two audio interviews with prominent figures in the School of Media Studies: Linda Dunne, an interim chair in the early 1990s, interviewed by student Gerard Hemmerle, and faculty member Deirdre Boyle, interviewed by librarian Carmen Hendershott. Two files in New School Adult Division Dean's Office records (NS.02.01.02) document administrative oversite of the program during its earliest years of affiliation with the New School for Social Research, including a transition period during which the New School gained greater oversight over the program. Files in the George Calderaro records (NS.03.01.03) include documentation of publicity efforts involving the School of Media Studies-sponsored events and initiatives in the 1990s. Finally, recordings of School of Media Studies-sponsored events will be found in the New School Audiovisual Collection (NS.07.02.01).

Separated Materials

Media Studies course catalogs have been transferred to the New School Archives and Special Collection's Course catalog record group (NS.05.01.01).

Processing Information

Folders are primarily those used by the School of Media Studies and have not been replaced during processing. Folder titles have been taken directly from original folders, though some have been modified for clarity. Please contact for further details.

New School School of Media Studies records
Ari Spool and New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
May 13, 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • August 12, 2021: New School Archives staff added information about digital video originating on DVDs.
  • July 19, 2023: New School Archives staff added information about event posters and fliers.