The George Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave, Rochester, and University of Rochester recently announced that two collections of George Eastman’s papers have been reunited at the museum.
The Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation at UR transferred a group of letters and photographs it has housed since 1976 to the museum’s George Eastman Legacy Collection, which was established in 1989.
“When the museum originally gave the materials to University of Rochester, it did not have a legacy collection, it was a museum of photography and cinema only,” said Kathy Connor, curator of the George Eastman Legacy Collection. “The university had the staff and capacity to make this collection accessible to the public, which is what they did when they processed the collection, created a guide and subsequently published the online finding aid.”
UR received its portion of the George Eastman Papers in 1976 at the direction of Robert Doherty, the museum’s director. Items included nearly 4,000 photographs and 700 family letters, such as greetings from well-wishers on Eastman’s 75th and 77th birthdays and thank you letters from friends to whom he had sent copies of his book “Chronicles of an African Trip.”
“University of Rochester River Campus Libraries is pleased to collaborate to support research and preserve the legacy of one of Rochester’s most well-known citizens, George Eastman,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly dean for UR River Campus Libraries.
Researchers from around the world have accessed the papers in the university’s Rush Rhees Library for 40 years. Among them was Elizabeth Brayer, who used the materials extensively in researching her landmark biography of Eastman. RBSCP made the 4,252 photographs in the George Eastman Papers collection freely available online in 2011.
UR will continue to provide digital access to the materials it has stewarded and will add digital versions of the papers that have been transferred to the museum.
“Today’s researchers expect to be able to access collections at any time from anywhere,” said Jessica Lacher-Feldman, assistant dean for special collections and preservation and the Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer director of rare books, special collections and preservation. “We will meet those expectations and preserve the accuracy of the work of numerous scholars whose research cites the manuscripts when they were held at University of Rochester.”
Researchers visiting the museum will find a 50,000-plus item collection of personal and business correspondence received by Eastman from 1879 until his death in 1932, along with bound volumes of correspondence sent by him. The business correspondence describes the development of the products and processes of Eastman Kodak Company and provides insight into the photographic and motion picture industries in the U.S.
The connection between UR and the museum dates to before the museum was founded. Eastman bequeathed his home to UR in 1932 to serve as the residence of its president. A group of university trustees and Kodak executives planned the transformation of the mansion into a living memorial to Eastman and an educational institution dedicated to the preservation and study of the history of photography in 1946. Two years later, the university donated the mansion and surrounding property to the new museum. The two institutions have worked together on a broad range of projects and programs ever since, including joint graduate programs in film preservation and in photographic preservation and collections management.
“Bringing together these two collections of George Eastman’s papers will provide a more comprehensive research opportunity for scholars and other museum visitors,” said Bruce Barnes, the Ron and Donna Fielding director at the museum. “We are grateful to have such a strong relationship with University of Rochester and look forward to many collaborative projects in our future.”
Appointments are required to access that papers in the George Eastman Study Center. The papers and photographs formerly held by UR are available online at
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