A note from graduate student, Heather Westfall
In the fall of 2010 I began the MA degree program in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management with Ryerson University in conjunction with George Eastman House. One of the most enjoyable parts of my experience as a student in this program was my second year at George Eastman House. The staff was very helpful and friendly throughout my experience, and I can only encourage any prospective students who are interested in any of the courses offered at the museum. The courses are taught by the staff of the Department of Photographs, including senior curator Alison Nordström, and assistant curators Jamie Allen and Jessica Johnston.
Much of what I learned from studying at George Eastman House came from seeing and studying real photographic prints, not reproductions. This is particularly important when it comes to learning how to identify a photographic process to understand fully how a photograph is created. The George Eastman House collection is a wonderful resource for a student because the range of photographic processes over the entire history of photography that it contains; I was able to see examples of any process or technique I was curious about. All of our lectures on photographic processes or the history of photography were supplemented with examples from the collection, and in some cases allowed me to see a technique in person for the first time. While studying the photographs in the George Eastman House collection, we were given assignments to apply the skills that we had learned through the lectures, including those by Rachel Stuhlman, head librarian and curator of rare books, Mark Osterman, the Museum’s process historian and Joe Struble, the archivist of the photograph collection. We were able to apply these skills directly to the collection itself, working with collection items rather than a practice item.
In many cases we were given the task of cataloguing the object and creating housings to protect and store the photographs. I truly felt that I was working on something that helped the museum. During my time at George Eastman House I learned so much more then I had thought possible in nine months. The photograph collection and library are wonderful resources, and I cannot thank the staff enough for always being available to answer my questions and show me new things. A part of me wishes that I did not have to leave, but I know I will be back one day as an active professional in the field to research and learn from the collection.
Lisa Kribs-LaPierre is the Manager of Online Engagement at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.