Award from Museums for America grant program supports the Eastman Museum’s conservation of 1,004 film titles from its South Asian cinema collection
Rochester, N.Y., September 21, 2020—The George Eastman Museum has received a grant award of $249, 517 from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through its Museums for America grant program. This is the largest grant program of IMLS. The Eastman Museum’s initiative to conserve 1,004 South Asian films in its collection was one of 109 projects that received part of the more than $19 million in grants awarded.
Since 2014, the Eastman Museum has acquired a total of 1,285 Indian and Pakistani film prints, representing the largest collection of South Asian films held outside of India. In 2014, the museum saved 775 Indian film prints from imminent destruction at an abandoned multiplex in California. The British Film Institute National Archive donated 441 prints of Pakistani films to the museum in 2016, and additional Indian films from a shuttered cinema in Texas were received by the museum in 2017.
“The George Eastman Museum’s South Asian film collection represents productions in Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, and at least five other languages. It covers almost 75 years of film history, from 1939 to 2013. Many titles are from acclaimed masters of Indian and Pakistani cinema,” said Peter Bagrov, PhD, Curator in Charge, Moving Image Department, George Eastman Museum. “We are grateful for the support from IMLS to continue this important work that will allow us to conserve a significant cinema collection and support scholarly research.”
A portion of the collection has already been processed. Grant funds from IMLS will allow the museum to continue work on the collection by conserving, cataloging, and providing access to 1,004 additional South Asian film titles. These films have been identified as needing urgent rehousing, cleaning, and cataloging to protect them from decay, mold, dirt, rust, and vinegar syndrome.
The museum will hire two full-time Project Film Specialists for a 26-month period to complete work on the project. When finished, a catalog of the museum’s entire South Asian cinema collection will be accessible for free through the Eastman Museum’s online collection database.
Completion of this project will advance the work of researchers, scholars, and archivists around the world, who will benefit from access to the museum’s online database of film records and its loans of projectable prints. Within Rochester, the project will enhance the museum’s ability to engage and serve the interests of the South Asian community and to promote cultural understanding, by enabling the films to be screened as part of the Dryden Theatre’s regular film programming.
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