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Director's Note: Preserving Our Landmark and Collections

George Eastman House is, above all, committed to the preservation of the treasures with which we have been entrusted. It has been more than 25 years since we completed the construction of our archive and gallery building and restoration of George Eastman’s historic house and gardens. This transformational project was undertaken primarily to assure preservation of our world-class collections and to restore Mr. Eastman’s landmark home as a historic house museum. After a quarter century, the state of our facilities now requires comprehensive evaluation.

This year, we conducted a Historic Site Condition Survey, funded primarily by a grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through Title 9 of the Environmental Protection Act of 1993. The survey confirmed that some portions of the historic house that were not restored in the late 1980s are now in urgent need of repair. These include the East Porch, the Porte-cochère, the Conservatory roof, and the Colonnade. The total cost of these restoration projects is estimated to be over $2 million.

Our museum currently has no reserves for these purposes and no annual surplus to allocate toward major projects. One of our benefactors has generously committed to donate a total of $625,000 in 2014 and 2015 toward the cost of the most pressing work. We have applied for a $500,000 preservation grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation. We are cautiously optimistic about receiving the grant, but, in any event, we will need to raise additional funds to complete the necessary restoration.

Our museum also needs to establish a reserve fund that will support maintenance of our historical structures on an ongoing basis, so that they do not slide into disrepair. Preventative maintenance is good practice and can result in substantial long-term cost savings. Unfortunately, it is possible only when the funds for proper ongoing maintenance are available.

Separately, we have been working with outside experts on a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment of our collection vaults, exhibition spaces, and work areas. This project has been made possible, in part, by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access. This year we need to raise $50,000 of matching funds to complete this project.

Raising funds for urgent and long-term preservation is a high priority for George Eastman House, even as we strive to improve our service to the community and our leadership among institutions in the fields of photography and cinema. To make a tax-deductible contribution toward these efforts, please contact Susan Yovanoff at (585) 271-3361 ext. 233.

Bruce Barnes, Ph.D.
Ron and Donna Fielding Director
September/October 2014 Bulletin