The George Eastman Museum has recently been awarded federal grants for four important projects. Two of the grants support critical preservation projects; the other two foster open access to our collections and archives.
The museum has been awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant of $498,815 for the restoration of the Colonnade of George Eastman’s mansion, a National Historic Landmark. The Save America’s Treasures program is funded by the Historic Preservation Fund as administered by the National Park Service, Department of Interior. The Colonnade project is the most important and complex preservation project our institution has undertaken since 1990. As the only interior route between the mansion and the museum’s other structures, the Colonnade is an essential part of the museum visitor’s experience.
The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $340,615 grant for facility upgrades at our Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center in Chili, New York. The upgrades will create a more reliable, safer, and more sustainable environment for our 35mm nitrate films, advancing our vital mission to preserve the artistically and historically important collection of nitratebased materials for the benefit of scholars, cinephiles, and the general public.
The Conservation Center is the repository of 24,000 reels of 35mm motion picture prints and negatives (from 1893 to 1951), 40,000 photographic negatives, and 25,000 frame clippings from film prints. Among the treasures preserved there are the camera negative for the silent blockbuster The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925) and the Technicolor camera negatives for The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939). The photographic negatives include works by Lewis W. Hine, Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, and Nickolas Muray.
Unlike many collecting institutions the Eastman Museum has protected nitrate film elements; some are not only useful for preservation but also still projectable. Our leadership in nitrate preservation has enabled us to present the annual Nitrate Picture Show, a unique film festival.
The facility upgrades will include a backup generator, an energy recovery system within the climate control system, and passive building enhancements to increase energy efficiency. Electrical power delivery will be upgraded to avoid adverse effects from brownouts.
The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $350,000 grant for a project to catalog and digitize the entire photography collection donated to the museum by Alden Scott Boyer in 1951. It is one of the largest and most diverse collections of nineteenth-century British photography outside the United Kingdom and features photographs by key American figures such as Southworth & Hawes and Carleton Watkins. The grant has supported hiring a cataloguer and an object photographer for the three-year project. Upon its completion, the collection will be freely accessible via the museum’s website.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services has awarded a $116,975 grant for digitizing and providing free online access to nearly 300 hours of audio and audiovisual recordings made by the museum. These are recordings of artists, curators, scholars, and conservators who have made significant contributions to cinema, photography, and photograph conservation. Included are interviews with film stars such as Lillian Gish, Buster Keaton, and Gloria Swanson; photographers including André Kertész, Lisette Model, and Ansel Adams; and the museum’s first curator, Beaumont Newhall. There are also audiotapes of conferences, symposia, and workshops from nearly forty years of the museum’s history. The project will raise awareness of our institution’s tremendous contribution to the study, appreciation, and preservation of cinema and photography.
We are grateful for these four grants, which will enable quantum improvements as we address longstanding challenges or pursue new initiatives. Yet, none of these grants contribute to funding the day-to-day operations of the George Eastman Museum, and the funded projects all require the participation of our dedicated staff. As a result, these grants make your support of our annual fund both more essential and more productive. Thank you.
Ron and Donna Fielding Director
November/December 2019 Bulletin