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The George Eastman Museum completes environment improvement project to preserve its Photography and Technology Collections

$300,000 grant award from the National Endowment for the Humanities improves environmental conditions for museum’s collections

Rochester, N.Y., July 30, 2019—The George Eastman Museum has recently completed a major upgrade to the environmental conditions of its collections areas, with grant support of $300,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The more than $800,000 Environmental Improvements Implementation project included the replacement of a 30-year-old system that controlled the temperature and humidity for the photography vault, technology vault, and photography study center. 

In 2014, with support from an initial grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Eastman Museum engaged a team of experts to conduct a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment of the many areas within our facilities where collection objects are stored, exhibited, studied, conserved, or prepared for exhibition. The assessment identified and prioritized areas where the environmental conditions (temperature and humidity) should be better controlled. The museum’s photography and technology vaults were marked as the highest priorities for improvement, as many of the objects stored in these vaults (particularly photographs) are intrinsically unstable, and their chemical deterioration can be slowed down only through storage at a reduced temperature and appropriate relative humidity. 

The Environmental Improvements Implementation project began in late 2018 and was completed earlier this year, creating now stable environments of 50°F and 35% relative humidity (RH) in the photography vault and 60°F and 45% RH in the technology vault. 

“The new equipment and ductwork that was installed have dramatically improved the preservation of our collection objects,” said Bruce Barnes, Ron and Donna Fielding Director, George Eastman Museum. “I consider this to be the most important project that we have undertaken during my tenure at the Eastman Museum, and we are grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for helping us to initiate this project and create the optimum environment for our world-class collections.”

Funding for this project has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the William and Sheila Konar Foundation, ESL Charitable Foundation, the Elaine P. and Richard U. Wilson Foundation, Stephen and Janice Ashley, and several other individual donors.