George Eastman House

The George Eastman Museum is the world's oldest museum dedicated to photography and one of the world's oldest film archives, opened to the public in 1949 in Rochester, New York, USA. World-renowned for its photograph and motion picture archives, 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 in and around the house built by George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak Company. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.



    The estate of George Eastman, including his house, was bequeathed upon his death to the University of Rochester. University presidents (first Benjamin Rush Rhees, then Alan Valentine) occupied the mansion as a residence for ten years. After World War II, the university transferred the property to a board of trustees.

    The George Eastman House Museum of Photography was chartered in 1947 and the mansion adapted for its operation. Today, the museum's full name is the George Eastman Museum. 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.

    The museum's original collections — including the Medicus collection of Civil War photographs by Alexander Gardner, Eastman Kodak Company's historical collection, and the massive collection from France — attracted significant additions over the next 40 years. Entire archives, corporate collections, and artists' lifetime portfolios have been donated to the Eastman House, as well as an assemblage of rare motion pictures and ephemera.

    By 1984, the museum's holdings were considered by many to be among the world's finest. However, with the collections growing at a rapid pace, the museum increasingly suffered from its own success. With an increasing number of materials to store, protect, and study, additional space became critical. DeWolff Partnership Architectsh was selected from an international design competition.

    The challenging program required a museum, research and archival space of 68,000 square feet. The resulting design was a contemporary use of existing historical forms found in the Mansion and Carriage House. Roman brick, granite and cast stone reflect the spirit of the mansion. The historic gardens of the George Eastman Mansion were removed to facilitate the construction of the 22,000 square foot below-grade photographic facility. The gardens were recreated above.

    The new facility opened to the public in January 1989.

    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 trains top photograph archivists and conservators from around the world.

    In 1996, the museum opened the Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center in nearby Chili, New York. 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 is supported by a grant from The Louis B. Mayer Foundation.

    George Eastman Museum has arranged groundbreaking exhibitions, such as New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape in 1975.

    On October 6, 2015, the museum changed its name from George Eastman House to the George Eastman Museum.



    As of 2011, George Eastman Museum's endowment exceeded $50 million.


    The current director of George Eastman Museum is Bruce Barnes who was appointed in September 2012. Former directors include Oscar Solbert, Beaumont Newhall, and Anthony Bannon.

    Directors of George Eastman Museum
    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

    George Eastman Museum is headed by a board of trustees, with Thomas H. Jackson being the chair. The board appoints the director of George Eastman Museum.


    The museum's permanent collection comprises more than 400,000 photographs and negatives dating from the invention of photography to the present day; 23,000 films and several million film stills; 43,000 publications; and more than 25,000 pieces of technology.

    Photography collection

    "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:

    • A major collection of Ansel Adams’ early and vintage prints
    • A major collection of nineteenth-century photographs of the American West
    • A major collection of ca. 1890s-1910s glass negatives from French photojournalist Charles Chusseau-Flaviens
    • One of the largest collections of daguerreotypes in the world

    The museum is also an important repository of the work of Stieglitz and Edward Steichen.

    Virtually every major photographer who has emerged in the past 50 years is represented, although the changing realities of the photographic marketplace dictate a greater selectivity in the acquisition of works than ever before. Notable contemporary photographers include Steve McCurry, Robert Frank, Ed Kashi,James Nachtwey, Sebastião Salgado, Manuel Rivera-Ortiz or Larry Towell.

    Motion picture collection

    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 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.

    George Eastman House awards

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

    George Eastman House Honors Award

    In 2009, it established the George Eastman House Honors Award, which is given to artists whose lifetime contribution embodies the traditions and values championed by the international museum. The George Eastman House Honors Award's historically first recipient became a multi-winner of Academy Awards and Golden Globes, Jessica Lange.

    The Eastman House

    George Eastman (1854–1932) 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 classical 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 pipe organ. Eastman used the house as a center of the city's rich musical life from 1905 until his death in 1932.

    The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.


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