Who We Are


Founding of CAORC

CAORC Founding Meeting

Founded in 1981, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) is a private not-for-profit federation of independent overseas research centers that promote advanced research, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, with focus on the conservation and recording of cultural heritage and the understanding and interpretation of modern societies. CAORC fosters research projects across national boundaries, encourages collaborative research and programmatic and administrative coherence among member centers, and works to expand their resource base and service capacity.

CAORC member centers maintain a permanent presence in the host countries where they operate—in Europe, Latin America, the Near and Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and West Africa. The centers are the primary vehicle through which American scholars carry out research vital to our understanding of and intersection with other cultures. Some centers have existed for over a century while others were founded in the decades following World War II in response to American scholarly needs and host country invitations. Nearly four hundred American universities, colleges, and museums hold multiple memberships in the centers which serve their institutional members, individual fellows and members, as well as affiliated scholars through a broad range of research- and teaching-support services. Funding is awarded from sources including the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as from private foundations and individuals.

AORC Directors and CAORC Staff at 2011 Directors Workshop, Mongolia

AORC Directors and CAORC Staff at 2011 Directors Workshop, Mongolia

American overseas research centers promote international scholarly exchange, primarily through sponsorship of fellowship programs, foreign language study, and collaborative research projects. They facilitate access to research resources, provide a forum for contact and exchange, offer library and technical support and accommodation, and disseminate information to the scholarly and general public through conferences, seminars, exhibitions, and publications. Because of the centers’ contributions to the generation of knowledge, the creation of area expertise, and cordial relations between the United States and the host countries, scholars seek CAORC’s help in establishing similar centers in other parts of the world.

The members of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers have centers in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Iraq, Jordan, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Turkey, West Africa, and Yemen. They serve as a base for virtually every American scholar undertaking research in the host countries.

American Overseas Research Centers

CAORC Member Centers:

  • are located in countries of vital importance to the United States. Most American Overseas Research Centers (AORCS) are located in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.
  • have impact on thousands of U.S. students. The AORCs are responsible for taking thousands of U.S. students and scholars from universities across America to places overseas where study and research are difficult to negotiate.
  • are relied upon by U.S. universities and colleges. 400 American educational institutions in 47 states holding nearly 1000 institutional memberships in 22 AORCs around the world rely on the AORCs to fund and support research and study overseas.
  • are cost-effective. The AORCs facilitate research, conduct programs, and inform the American public all while operating with very low administrative costs.
  • inform the American public and policy makers. AORC officers and affiliated scholars are called upon by television, print, radio, and electronic media outlets and government agencies for interviews and background information about current events.
  • maintain permanent on-the-ground presence. The permanent on-the-ground presence of the Centers enables them to quickly react to the political and social changes of the host country and region.


The Council of American Overseas Research Centers:

  • provides secure funding for 80% of its member centers;
  • facilitates the establishment of new research centers;
  • secures funds for and supports a number of fellowships;
  • explores new technology in support of international scholarship;
  • fosters communication and collaboration among centers leading to a strengthening of academic programs and administrative procedures;
  • speaks in support of overseas research centers;
  • helps expand the resource base and raise the profile of member centers;
  • fosters research projects across national boundaries; and
  • serves as advocate for area studies.

American Overseas Research Centers offer many services to scholars including:

  • providing research libraries, technical services, and living accommodations;
  • serving as a base for field expeditions;
  • supporting publication of papers, books and serials, newsletters and information bulletins;
  • sponsoring joint scholarly projects and offering a program of conferences, lectures, seminars, concerts and exhibitions;
  • providing a place for contact and exchange between American researchers and their host-country counterparts as well as third-country colleagues working in the host-country;
  • liaison with host-country governments and universities in obtaining access to research sources; and
  • monitoring and offering advice on the research climate in the host-country.

In addition to support for scholars, most centers make available their research to interested members of the U.S. and host-country publics, including primary and secondary schools. Most centers are consortia of U.S. universities and are governed by representatives of their member institutions. All centers are independently incorporated in the United States as private, not-for-profit organizations.


CAORC launched full-time operations in 1986 with grants from the Andrew W. Mellon, Rockefeller, and Exxon Foundations and the J.P. Getty Trust. CAORC is funded in part by the following Public and Private Institutions:

CAORC helps affiliated Centers and the Digital Library for International Research secure funding from sources such as:

  • U.S. Department of Education
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Institute for Museum and Library Services
  • Joukowsky Family Foundation
  • Rockefeller Foundation
  • The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation