George Eastman Museum

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George Eastman Museum
George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York
Location900 East Avenue, Rochester, New York, United States
Built1905; 117 years ago (1905)
1949; 73 years ago (1949) (museum opened)
ArchitectJ. Foster Warner
McKim, Mead and White (interiors)
Architectural styleGeorgian Revival
NRHP reference No.66000529
Significant dates
Added to NRHPNovember 13, 1966[1]
Designated NHLNovember 13, 1966[2]

The George Eastman Museum, the world's oldest museum dedicated to photography[3][4] and one of the world's oldest film archives, opened to the public in 1949 in Rochester, New York.

World-renowned for its collections in the fields of photography and cinema, the museum is also a leader in film preservation and photograph conservation, educating archivists and conservators from around the world. Home to the 500-seat Dryden Theatre, the museum is located on the estate of entrepreneur and philanthropist George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak Company. The estate was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.



The Rochester estate of George Eastman (1854–1932) was bequeathed upon his death to the University of Rochester. University presidents (first Benjamin Rush Rhees, then Alan Valentine) occupied Eastman's mansion as a residence for ten years.[5] In 1948, the university transferred the property to the museum and the Georgian Revival Style mansion was adapted to serve the museum's operations.[3]

George Eastman House was chartered as a museum in 1947.[6] From the outset, the museum's mission has been to collect, preserve, and present the history of photography and film. The museum opened its doors on November 9, 1949, displaying its core collections in the former public rooms of Eastman's house. In October 2015, the museum changed its name from George Eastman House to the George Eastman Museum.[7]

The museum's original collections included the Medicus collection of Civil War photographs by Alexander Gardner, Eastman Kodak Company's historical collection, and the massive Gabriel Cromer collection of nineteenth-century French photography. The Eastman Museum has received donations of entire archives, corporate and individual collections, and the estates of leading photographers, as well as thousands of motion pictures and massive holdings of cinematic ephemera.

By 1984, the museum's holdings were considered by many to be among the world's finest, but with the collections growing at a rapid pace, the museum was increasingly burdened by its own success. Additional space became critical to store and study the increasing number of collected objects. The museum's expansion facility opened to the public in January 1989.[8]

In 1999, the George Eastman Museum launched the Mellon Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation, made possible with grant support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program trained top photograph archivists and conservators from around the world.

In 1996, the museum opened the Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center in nearby Chili. One of only four film conservation centers in the United States (as of March 2006), the facility houses the museum's rare 35 mm prints made on cellulose nitrate. That same year, the Eastman House launched the first school of film preservation in the United States to teach restoration, preservation, and archiving of motion pictures. The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation was founded with support from The Louis B. Mayer Foundation.

George Eastman Museum has organized numerous groundbreaking exhibitions, including New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape in 1975.



The current director of the George Eastman Museum is Bruce Barnes who was appointed in September 2012.[9]

Directors of George Eastman Museum[10]
Name Tenure
Oscar N. Solbert 1947–1958
Beaumont Newhall 1958–1971
Van Deren Coke 1971–1972
Robert J. Doherty 1972–1981
Robert A. Mayer 1981–1989
James L. Enyeart 1989–1995
Anthony Bannon 1996–2012
Bruce Barnes 2012–present

Board of Trustees[edit]

The George Eastman Museum is headed by a board of trustees. Kevin Gavagan is the current chair of board.


The George Eastman Museum's annual budget is approximately $10 million. As of December 2014, its endowment exceeded $35 million.


The museum's holdings comprise more than 400,000 photographs and negatives dating from the invention of photography to the present day; 28,000 motion picture films; three million other cinematic objects, including letters, scripts, musical scores, lobby cards, posters, film stills, and celebrity portraits; more than 16,000 objects of photographic and cinematographic technology; an internationally renowned research collection of books, periodicals, and other materials on photography and moving images; and George Eastman's home furnishings and decorative arts, personal and business correspondence, private library, photographs, negatives, films, and related personal items.

Photography collection[edit]

"A&P, COFFEE, SANTA CLAUS", 1958, photograph by Nickolas Muray

The photography collection embraces numerous landmark processes, objects of great rarity, and monuments of art history that trace the evolution of the medium as a technology, as a means of scientific and historical documentation, and as one of the most potent and accessible means of personal expression of the modern era. More than 14,000 photographers are represented in the collection, including virtually all the major figures in the history of the medium. The collection includes original vintage works produced by nearly every process and printing medium employed. Notable holdings include:

The museum's collection includes works by leading contemporary artists, including Andy Warhol, Candida Höfer, David Levinthal, Cindy Sherman, Adam Fuss, Vik Muniz, Gillian Wearing, Ori Gersht, Mickalene Thomas, Chris McCaw, and Matthew Brandt.

Moving image collection[edit]

The George Eastman Museum Motion Picture Collection is one of the major moving image archives in the United States. It was established in 1949 by the first curator of film, James Card (1915–2000) who helped to build the George Eastman Museum as a leading force in the field with holdings of over 25,000 titles and a collection of stills, posters and papers with over 3 million artifacts. The George Eastman Museum's collection includes the complete moving-image works of William Kentridge.

George Eastman Legacy Collection[edit]

This collection includes George Eastman's house and the George Eastman Archive and Study Center.[11] Opened in April 1999,[12] the George Eastman Archive and Study Center contains Eastman's personal possessions and documents pertaining to Kodak's early history.[13] It has over half a million items[11] within its climate controlled vault.[12] The archive is accessible from the second floor of the house.[12] Items within the house itself include fragments of Eastman's coffin,[14] a mounted elephant head,[15] and an Aeolian pipe organ.[16]


On May 30, 1978, a two-alarm fire affecting four buildings resulted in the loss of some rare movie films and still photographs in the collection, though not as bad as originally feared.[17]

George Eastman Awards[edit]

The George Eastman Museum established the George Eastman Award for distinguished contribution to the art of film in 1955 as the first award given by an American film archive and museum to honor artistic work of enduring value. [18]


George Eastman's Estate[edit]

George Eastman built his residence at 900 East Avenue between 1902 and 1905. He created a unique urban estate complete with 10.5 acres (42,000 m2) of working farm land, formal gardens, greenhouses, stables, barns, pastures, and a 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2), 50-room Colonial Revival mansion with a fireproof structure made of reinforced concrete.

Eastman's house presented a neoclassical Georgian Revival facade of decorative craftsmanship. Beneath this exterior were such modern conveniences as an electrical generator, an internal telephone system with 21 stations, a built-in vacuum cleaning system, a central clock network, an elevator, and a great Aeolian pipe organ. Eastman used the house as a center of the city's rich musical life from 1905 until his death in 1932.

The estate was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.[2][22]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ a b "George Eastman House". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-14. Archived from the original on 2009-05-22.
  3. ^ a b "History of George Eastman House". George Eastman House website. Archived from the original on 2010-01-14. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  4. ^ Archives of American Art. "Oral history interview with Beaumont Newhall, 1965 Jan. 23".
  5. ^ Chao, Mary (November 22, 2010). "Historic houses are finding new lives in Rochester". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. Gannett Company. pp. 1A, 4A. Archived from the original on November 22, 2010. Retrieved November 22, 2010.
  6. ^ Newhall, Beaumont (September–December 1982). "The First Decade" (PDF). Image; Journal of Photography and Motion Pictures of the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House (Vol. 25, No. 3–4). p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2011-01-27.
  7. ^ "George Eastman Museum Announces New Name | George Eastman Museum". Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  8. ^ Quigley, Kathleen (1990-03-18). "Splendor Restored At Eastman House". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  9. ^ Dougherty, Nate (2012-09-27). "George Eastman House selects new director". Rochester Business Journal. Retrieved 2012-09-28.
  10. ^ "IMAGE (1972. vol 15. issue 4.)". Archived from the original on 2011-07-25.
  11. ^ a b "Who's behind the scenes at the Eastman House". Democrat and Chronicle. 18 Apr 1999.
  12. ^ a b c Fennessy, Steve (28 Mar 1999). "When the archive opens, you, too, can poke through Eastman's possessions". Democrat and Chronicle.
  13. ^ "Museums". Democrat and Chronicle. 1 May 2003.
  14. ^ "George Eastman House". Democrat and Chronicle. 27 Feb 2000.
  15. ^ "The Museum as Home". Democrat and Chronicle. 21 Jan 1990.
  16. ^ Dobbin, Sean (5 May 2012). "Donation to Eastman to help restore organ". Democrat and Chronicle.
  17. ^ "Fire Loss at Film Museum Less Than Was Feared". The New York Times. May 31, 1978.
  18. ^ "George Eastman Award". George Eastman Museum. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  19. ^ "MICHAEL DOUGLAS - 69TH GEORGE EASTMAN AWARD RECIPIENT". NSP Studio. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  20. ^ "Garner: Michael Keaton's Eastman Award comes at right time". Democrat & Chronicle. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  21. ^ "Julia Roberts to receive George Eastman Award for movie work". Associated Press. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  22. ^ Richard Greenwood (January 8, 1976). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: George Eastman House" (pdf). National Park Service. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help) and Accompanying 2 photos, 1 exterior from 1905 and 1 interior from 1920. (518 KiB)

External links[edit]

Official websites[edit]


Coordinates: 43°09′08″N 77°34′49″W / 43.152147°N 77.580278°W / 43.152147; -77.580278