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. The original facility, located in the basement of the historic mansion, was designed by Dr. Walter Clark, head of the Applied Photography Division at the Research Laboratories at Eastman Kodak Company. As a recognized expert on the deterioration mechanisms of photographs, Dr. Clark helped to build the laboratory’s international reputation. 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. Then, from 1999 to 2009, in collaboration with the Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the museum hosted the Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation, a two-year professional development program primarily funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Both programs brought national and international students and professionals to learn about identification, handling, conservation, and preservation of photographs.
The conservation library, which is part of the museum's Richard and Ronay Menschel Library, was created with funding provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A resource in photographic conservation and material science, the library contains more than 2,055 volumes and 224 bound periodical volumes, including the research projects of the Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation and the Certificate Program in Photographic Preservation and Archival Practice.
The center was dedicated in 2007 to the memory of Kay R. Whitmore, president, chair, and CEO of the Eastman Kodak Company from 1983 to 1993. The Kay R. Whitmore Conservation Center unites the Eastman Museum’s impressive collections, staff expertise, and research in a city rich in the history of photography.