Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors, we have created an endowment for our Department of Conservation. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation initially funded a $3 million challenge grant, which required that George Eastman House receive $2 million in matching cash contributions before drawing on the endowment. As a final push, we directed our 2013 year-end appeal to close the remaining gap. We were immensely gratified when the contributions received exceeded our goal.
We can now draw on this endowment to support our conservation department and its highly qualified staff, who care for our collections and conduct significant research to improve the understanding and conservation of photographic objects. As a leader in the field, we share this new knowledge with museums, scholars, and collectors worldwide.
Building our endowments is fundamental to the long-term sustainability of our institution. George Eastman House is among the five museums in the United States with the most important photography collections; the other four museums I would place on that list are the four museums with the largest total endowments. Admittedly, these four institutions have broader missions than Eastman House, but each of them has a total endowment more than twenty times the size of ours.
Endowments alleviate budgetary demands and, during fiscally difficult times, help to ensure continued funding for salaries and essential operational expenses. The main reason to have an endowment is stability, and for any institution that intends to exist for generations to come, endowments are critical.
At George Eastman House, a number of endowment funds have been created over the years. Some were created through endowment campaigns to support the collection archives, George Eastman’s historic house and gardens, and the general operations of the museum. Other endowments were created by donors interested in specific areas, such as photograph acquisitions, scholarly publications, and film preservation.
Moving forward, we will endeavor not only to bolster our current endowment funds, but also to create new endowments to support mission-critical functions, such as the curatorial staff in each of our collection areas. Curatorial endowments—which ensure funding for salaries, benefits, and research activities—are key to attracting and retaining the world-class curators this institution warrants. We also must address the ongoing capital needs of both the historic house and gardens and the gallery and archive building, which is now twenty-five years old.
We are committed to strengthening George Eastman House through endowment growth. If there are particular activities of our institution that you wish to support now and far into the future, please contact Pamela Reed Sanchez or me about endowment opportunities.
We are tremendously grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and to other donors for providing the funds needed to endow our esteemed Department of Conservation. Contributors to this endowment are acknowledged on the following pages. We thank them all.
Bruce Barnes, Ph.D.
Ron and Donna Fielding Director
March/April 2014 Bulletin