At the core, the work of a museum is safeguarding cultural treasures and making them accessible as sociological and artistic documents. At Eastman House, a staff of about 100 supports that work in one way or another. From those who work with the collections to those whose jobs it is to manage the business of a museum — from development to facilities staff, and everything in between. My department, Publications, falls into the second category. Whereas the collections management staff — the curators — tell the stories of our collections through interpretation, it is the Publications Department’s job to tell the Museum’s stories.
One such story is ongoing and many faceted. The work of the conservation officers at the Museum is akin to doctors saving patients. By extending objects’ lives as long as possible, they make the collections available for future generations of viewers and interpreters.
The Fall 2010/Winter 2011 issue of the Museum’s members’ magazine, Image, focuses on the job(s) of conserving the artifacts in our collections. Articles discuss topics from the latest forensic technologies being used to help treat the oldest types of photographs, to how Eastman House is keeping vintage photographic processes alive by teaching them to people just like you and me … people with little or no training but a lot of interest.
The issue also includes the voices of the people doing that work. Conservation staffers who have a passion for what they do and what they save. As Managing Editor of Image, that is what I hoped we would capture and share in this issue — the passion that drives these individuals dedicated to making sure that my (and your) grandchildren will be able to experience the films and photographs that have helped shape our world.
Below is a conversation with Museum staff member Dan Wagner, a Film Preservation officer, and Taina Meller, the Conservator in Charge of photographic preservation projects. It talks about the passion, philosophy, and practices used when conserving photographs and preserving motion pictures at Eastman House. I hope you read it and I suspect that you’ll find it interesting. I know I find it what we do behind the scenes here at the “big house” fascinating every day.
Click here to access the Image Magazine archive.
Amy VanDussen is the Publications Manager and Creative Director of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film.