My Favorite Piece in the Collection (for today at least)

Submitted by Amy Schelemanow,

I started working at Eastman House in 1992 straight out of the MFA photography program at RIT. As a part of that education I had acquired the knowledge of the history of photography as defined by Rosenblum and Newhall and was thrilled to be working in our Museum’s exhibitions department, handling and protecting what, to me, were the most precious images ever made.

My artistic tastes lean to modern and often to constructivist works. But, hands down, what took my breath away was the Museum’s tiny little print of Lewis Hines über-iconic Power House Mechanic. That print epitomized all that I had learned and worked toward. It took my breath away.

Lewis Wickes Hine, Power House Mechanic, (78:0999:0013), 1920

I’ve been captivated by many collection objects as I’ve served in various positions over the last 20 years. My favorites change based on the same things that yours might — I’ve just have the privilege of seeing and being influenced by lots of them. A (very) few of my favorites have been:

Frederick Evans’, Kelmscott Manor, Attics, (81:1198:0005), ca. 1897


Irving S. Underhill’s, Wrenches, (79:1994:0313MP), ca. 1915

Lázló Moholy-Nagy’s, Massenpsychose (Mass Psychosis), (81:2163:0049), ca. 1927

Those images and others by Frantisek Drtikol, Margaret Bourke White, E. J. Bellocq, and more...

I am also constantly inspired by the variety of detail and am soothed by the harmony of pattern in the Museum’s largest collection object — Mr. Eastman’s mansion.

But for the last few years one seldom-seen image has been my favorite. I “discovered” it while doing research for a report a few years ago. It has never been far from my thoughts since.

Edward Steichen. Silk Design (spectacles), 1926. Gelatin silver print. Bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen. Photograph collection. (1979:2421:0007)

There’s all sort of buzz surrounding the recent appointment of Bruce Barnes as the Museum’s director and he’s been talking a lot in the media and to staff about his goals for Eastman House. One of those goals has resonated with me the most: making a larger portion of the Museum’s collections available for viewing online.  I’m looking forward to working with fellow staff members to achieve that goal. It will allow everyone to enjoy the collections in new ways and to discover more of your “favorites”.  That will be a really wonderful thing to be part of.