Archives Series | Case Study – George Eastman Museum | An Overview





George Eastman Museum


(Please click on either image for more information.)


George Eastman Museum



Archives Series: Case Study – George Eastman Museum / An Overview



First, a quick introduction.

If I had to describe the entirety of the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY, in just one word, I simply couldn’t do it! It’s just NOT possible with such an incredibly diverse, forward-thinking institution. Instead, I’ll have to let a few key words and phrases speak for themselves:


Amazingly Vast    Richly Storied    Dynamic & Engaging    Welcoming    Simply Unforgettable


And even these words only BEGIN to tell the story!



George Eastman Museum
Want to plan a visit to the George Eastman Museum? You will once you know what they’re up to! Read on! (Please click on the image for more information.)






George Eastman Museum
So, do you perhaps think that the George Eastman Museum is “just a collection of old photographs?” Yeah, not by a long shot! (Please click on the image for more information.)



George Eastman Museum: The Most Unique Collections on Earth. Period.


So, I just gotta say it, folks: “jeez, where to start???”

This short blog is in fact an illustrated introduction to our upcoming series of blogs on the George Eastman Museum, as NO real understanding of this vitally important institution is possible in only one posting.

This being the case, over the course of 9 (count ’em, NINE!) blogs I am going to try* and distill just what it is that makes the George Eastman Museum such an incredible & unique institution (and destination! – see map above).

(* – yes folks, this is where I earn my keep – taking a vast resource of fascinating information and condensing it into a concise overview that is both interesting and informative!)



George Eastman Museum
In addition to unparalleled photography and film collections, unique educational programing and dynamically diverse film screenings, there’s George Eastman’s mansion and gardens – simply stunning!!! (Please click on the image for more information.)



George Eastman Museum: Upcoming Blogs


  • An Overview
         (you’re here now)

  • Photography Collection 
         (from photography’s pre-history up to the most recent digital images and photographic artwork)

   Technology Collection 
         (cameras and equipment from every era and every corner of the earth)

   Moving Image Collection 
         (from the earliest films up to today’s most recent motion pictures)

   George Eastman Mansion / Historic Landscape & Gardens
         (truly magnificent reflections on the life and times of George Eastman)

   Richard and Ronay Menschel Library
         (from one-of-a-kind treatises on early photography to mass circulation books, journals and magazines)

   Educational Programming
         (from local school tours, to workshops on antique processes, to world-class degree programs)

   Archival Practices
         (the teamwork, procedures and archival materials used for different images, objects and entire collections)

   Following a New Photographic Acquisition
         (a fascinating journey from initial intake, to accessing, to cataloging, and to preservation)



George Eastman Museum
Hands-on learning from the pros, one of many aspects of the George Eastman Museum’s mission.
(Please click on the image for more information.)



So, to give you a very brief glimpse of what’s in store, below is a quick overview of each of the topics listed above.


(Please Note: Archival storage and presentation principles / procedures / products are of paramount importance in the administration and care of collections such as those administered by the George Eastman Museum. In an effort to share with you the same types of museum-quality materials, procedures and advice that YOU can use to protect YOUR photographs, snapshots, family photo albums, home movies, and photographic artwork, I have taken the liberty of including information and links to such products, and to specifically-themed blogs, at the bottom of each of the following brief collection descriptions. This inclusion is meant as a way to further the conversation and the exchange of information, and is not intended to convey any sense of endorsement by the George Eastman Museum, which is a non-profit organization. Just so ya know.)






George Eastman Museum
Seeming endless shelves of Museum-Solander Cases and Drop Front Boxes hold fantastic images in the Museum’s Photography Collection. (Please click on the image for more information.)



  Photography Collection


Description from the George Eastman Museum website (please click here for more information):


“The photography collection at the George Eastman Museum, among the oldest and best in the world, is comprised of more than 400,000 photographic objects, dating from the introduction of the medium in 1839 through to the present day. It encompasses works made in all major photographic processes, from daguerreotype to digital, includes work by more than eight thousand photographers, and continues to expand.”


(How to treat YOUR stuff like the pros: Metal Edge Drop Front Boxes / Onyx Portfolio Boxes / Museum-Solander Cases / Document File Boxes / Polyethylene Bags / HD Poly Envelopes / and please see our fully-illustrated blogs on Matting and Mounting your photographs, Preserving Snapshots, Dating Photos and Media, and Preserving Family Photo Albums.)






George Eastman Museum
A wide variety of cameras from different eras encapsulate the changes that have taken place as photographic technologies have evolved. (Please click on the image for more information.)



•  Technology Collection


Description from the George Eastman Museum website (please click here for more information):


“The George Eastman Museum holds the world’s leading collection of photographic and cinematographic technology. Consisting of more than 16,000 artifacts from the earliest days of photography to today’s digital devices, the collection contains all of the equipment necessary for photographic image making, as well as printed documentation related to the business, manufacturing, and marketing of the photographic and motion picture industries.”


(How to treat YOUR stuff like the pros: please see our fully-illustrated blog on Archival Storage Boxes: Object and Artifact Storage.)






George Eastman Museum
Some of the zillions of motion pictures preserved in the temperature / humidity controlled film vault. (Please click on the image for more information.)



  Moving Image Collection


Description from the George Eastman Museum website (please click here for more information):


“The George Eastman Museum preserves and promotes the art of cinema in all its forms, from the mainstream to the avant-garde. Founded by the museum’s first curator of film, James Card (1915–2000), the collection now comprises more than 28,000 titles spanning the entire history of world cinema, from the early experiments of Thomas Edison and the Lumière brothers to the present.”


(How to treat YOUR stuff like the pros: please see our fully-illustrated blog entitled American Family Archives / Preserving 8mm Home Movies and Films.)






George Eastman Museum
Photograph by George Eastman of the conservatory expansion, from the terrace garden, 1919. From a gelatin on nitrocellulose roll film negative. Gift of Eastman Kodak Company. (Please click on the image for more information.)



  George Eastman Mansion / Historic Landscape & Gardens


Description from the George Eastman Museum website (please click here for more information):


Eastman’s house presented a classical facade of decorative craftsmanship. Beneath this exterior were modern conveniences such 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 pipe organ, which made the home itself an instrument, a center of the city’s rich musical life from 1905 until Eastman’s death in 1932.

A fourteen-month restoration of the mansion was completed in January 1990. A nationwide search resulted in the recovery of many of Eastman’s belongings thought to have been lost or destroyed. The many photographs made by Eastman and others, as well as details found in letters, bills, and notes, helped to make the restoration authentic.”


“… the George Eastman Museum landscape collection comprises lawns, trees, ornamental shrubs, vines, and five restored or adapted garden areas planted with perennials, bulbs, annuals, and ground covers typically grown during Eastman’s residency (1905–1932). Historic buildings, structures, and architectural elements such as the Loggia, Grape Arbor, Pergola, sunken oval lily pool, and seventeenth-century Venetian wellheads are also part of this collection.

The landscape collection is carefully restored, preserved, and interpreted for the public by museum staff, volunteers, and docents as it relates both historically and horticulturally to George Eastman. Preservation and restoration plans for this collection are based on estate photos taken between 1902 and 1932, correspondence, plant lists, and original architectural drawings and plans of the property held in the George Eastman Legacy collection.”






George Eastman Museum
A photo historian’s / researcher’s paradise! (Please click on the image for more information.)



  Richard and Ronay Menschel Library


Description from the George Eastman Museum website (please click here for more information):


“The library offers comprehensive, international, up-to-date materials on the history of photography, from daguerreotypes to digital images. Monographs and exhibition catalogues of the work of well-known photographers are available, as well as self-published photobooks by emerging contemporary artists. Holdings include many books on the historical, theoretical, and social aspects of photography, and on the use of the medium in journalism, advertising, and industry. Photographic technique is thoroughly documented in manuals, equipment catalogues, and scientific reports. Reference works, including dictionaries, guides, and auction catalogues, are available. Periodicals range from scholarly journals to mass-market magazines.

Library Special Collections and Archives comprise manuscripts, papers, and ephemera, including those of Alvin Langdon Coburn, Lewis W. Hine, Southworth and Hawes, and Edward Steichen, among other photographers, collectors, and inventors.”


(How to treat YOUR stuff like the pros: Newspaper & Magazine Storage Kit / Document Storage Boxes / Document Storage Kit / Acid-Free File Folders / Record Storage Boxes / Polyethylene Bags, and please see our fully-illustrated blogs on Preserving Old Letters in the Digital Age /  Saving Wet and Water Damaged Books.)






George Eastman Museum
From grade school tours, to hands-on workshops, to full-blown graduate degree coursework, the educational programing at the George Eastman Museum offers something for everyone! (Please click on the image for more information.)



 Educational Programs


Description from the George Eastman Museum website (please click here for more information):


“The Photographic Preservation and Collections Management (PPCM) program is a comprehensive combination of practical and classroom experience that offers access to the museum’s unparalleled photographic collections, the world’s largest library of photographica, and an internationally recognized faculty and staff. The two-year master’s degree jointly offered by the University of Rochester and the George Eastman Museum teaches the care, preservation, and interpretation of photographs within a broader humanities context. The Eastman Museum also offers an intensive eight-month certificate program for professionals, students, and independent scholars.”


“The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation offers a one-year certificate course and a two-year master’s program in partnership with the University of Rochester. Established at the George Eastman Museum in 1996, the Selznick School was the first full-fledged program established in the United States for archival training, museum studies, and curatorship in film and media.”


“The George Eastman Museum offers one- to five-day photography workshops throughout the year. Participants get hands-on instruction from experts in historic and alternative processes, make their own photographs, and see prime examples from the museum’s incomparable collections.

Eastman Museum workshops are intended to help artists, educators, and enthusiasts develop new skills. Experience is not necessary for most of the workshops.”






George Eastman Museum
Conservation and archival preservation are a BIG DEAL at the George Eastman Museum. I’m not trying to tell you what to do folks, but sure I am: you should follow their example and archivally protect YOUR irreplaceable photographs and snapshots! (Please click on the image for more information.)



 Conservation and Archival Practices


Description from the George Eastman Museum website (please click here for more information):


“The Kay R. Whitmore Conservation Center at the George Eastman Museum is responsible for the preservation and care of the museum’s collection materials. Conservation staff conduct research to advance the material understanding of all forms of photography and educate the public about historic photographic processes through photography workshops.

The museum’s conservation laboratory was founded in 1975…. In 1989, the conservation laboratory was moved into the museum’s new gallery and archive building. Two years later, the museum established the Certificate Program in Photographic Preservation and Archival Practice…. [This program allowed] national and international students and professionals to learn about identification, handling, conservation, and preservation of photographs.”


(How to treat YOUR stuff like the pros: please see ALL our fully-illustrated blogs on conservation, preservation and archival materials YOU can use to preserve YOUR photographs, family artifacts and collections.)






George Eastman Museum
While probably not THIS particular image, what will be the next photograph – either historic or contemporary – that the George Eastman Museum will acquire, access, conserve (boy, does this photo need some TLC from a trained conservator), catalog, and place with those already in its internationally renowned collection? Stay tuned, folks, because as I write this I don’t know either. (Please click on the image for more information.)



 Receiving / Following a New Photograph Acquisition


Yeah, there’s no description from the George Eastman Museum’s website on this one, folks, as we’re just going to go along on a fully-illustrated ride to follow a new photographic acquisition when it actually happens. This will allow us to tie many of the previous blogs together to give you a unique perspective on just what happens – and why.

Many different departments and individuals are involved in this fascinating process, so stay tuned as what you’ll learn can be applied to YOUR OWN photographs, snapshots, family photo albums and more!


(How to treat YOUR stuff like the pros: please see our fully-illustrated blogs on Conservators: Pros You Should Know, Preserving SnapshotsDating Photos and Media, and Preserving Family Photo Albums.)





In closing, I am thrilled to have been granted “insider access” to the staff, administration, and collections of this world-class institution!

I’m looking forward to sharing what’s going on “behind the scenes,” and hope you’ll gain new insights that you can apply to YOUR OWN photograph collections.

I also hope you will consider a trip to Rochester, New York, to visit the George Eastman Museum in person, as it is truly one of the very few museums in the world that literally has “something for everyone!”


Until our next blog, I’ll leave you with this:



George Eastman Museum
If you let your old family photos deteriorate, or you NEVER EVEN PRINT your current digital snapshots and camera phone images, then (Please click on the image for more information.)



Today it is estimated that around 1.8 BILLION photos will be shared PER DAY on the major photo apps (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc.). 

That’s 657 BILLION A YEAR, folks! (Click here for our full blog on the topic, and here for a related article in The Atlantic magazine.)


657 billion looks something like this:   657,000,000,000


And yet…


“In 10 years, the most photographed generation ever will have no pictures.” 



George Eastman Museum
 THIS is the metaphoric result! (Please click on the image for more information.)



Now, what does this have to do with the George Eastman Museum, you might ask? Well, stay tuned to our entire series of upcoming blogs to better understand the Museum’s mission and its philosophies toward the importance of preserving photographs and films (including yours!) from yesterday & today – for tomorrow!





Contact Us

If you have any additional questions on preserving your collections, or would you like more information on any of our museum-quality archival storage and presentation materials, please contact us here at Archival Methods. We’re always there to help with any archiving, storage, or presentation questions you may have.

We would also like to encourage you to follow us on TwitterFacebookPinterest, and our large selection of informative and crisply-illustrated (and often humorous!) blogs for up-to-the-minute information, Archival Solutions of the Week (take a look at this archive for more info!), and stories of interest. Likewise, our exclusive short videos illustrate many of the archival products and procedures that you may wish to “see in action,” so please take a look!

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