Google is in the house

Posted by on Jun 17 2013 | Exploring the Archive, House & Gardens, Motion Pictures, Photography, Technology

This month Google adds more than 1,000 new destinations to experience via street view. It looks like we are one of the first destinations locally (Rochester, N.Y.) to open our doors beyond the street.

the technology vault

This is exciting to us for a few reasons – the first, visitors onsite will now have the opportunity to use their mobile’s to know where they are throughout the house and museum. Secondly, for those that may never come to Eastman House it is an opportunity to invite all to come on in and learn a little bit more about us.
Lastly, we realize as an institution another important aspect for Eastman House is what is going on behind the scenes – our schools (Photographic Preservation and Collections Management & The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation) and students working in the collections, our conservation labs and photo processes and finally, the vaults. We are pleased to reveal our technology vault three floors underground (are we the first museum to do so?)

So feel free to take a drive and look around – make sure to check out the gardens too!

Having also partnered with Google’s Art Project (the cultural institute), we became the first photography museum to open its collections to the world. More information here, here and here.

Eastman House holds nearly 500,000 photographs representing every major process and the work of more than 14,000 photographers. In addition to the photographs, the collection holds important examples of the photograph’s role in our culture over time – including photojournalism, advertising, etc.  The Motion Picture Collection is one of the major moving image archives in the U.S.

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Eastman House is – and always has been – an independent nonprofit institution. We rely on the support of donors, locally and internationally so we can continue to tell the story of photography and motion pictures.

Our new director Bruce Barnes relays our situation honestly, “Frankly, it is a challenge to fund a non-profit institution of our scope in a metropolitan area of one million. George Eastman House has always been an independent, non-profit institution, but the prevailing economic environment has made fundraising more difficult – creating a shortfall at a critical time“.

Thanks for your consideration and above all else take a look!

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Memento Mori – Postmortem Photography

Posted by on Dec 11 2012 | Photography

Meghan Jordan is a fourth year fine art photography major at RIT currently interning with our Department of Photographs. In the future she hopes to pursue a Master’s degree in the area of photographic history to further educate people of the medium’s importance.
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Unidentified Photographer. [Woman sitting in high-backed chair, holding deceased child] ca. 1860. Daguerreotype with applied color.

Since beginning my internship in the Department of Photographs five months ago, multiple people have asked me what I have been working on. The majority of the time, my response of “a postmortem collection” has ignited looks of bewilderment and disgust. Even after an explanation, friends and family are still confused as to why one would spend their time with such a collection.

From its birth, photography has been used to preserve moments in one’s life, so why not death as well? In the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, it would not be uncommon to find a postmortem photograph on a mantel or in a family album. So why today are people so uncomfortable with such an idea?

Perhaps an association between death and gore in the media casts a negative light on postmortem imagery. Television, movies, and news often show bloody corpses and gruesome deaths; but memorial photographs are quite the opposite. In 2010, the George Eastman House acquired the Walter Johnson Collection – one of the largest of such collections in North America, containing over 1,000 postmortem and memorial objects. The photographs are not morbid or grotesque; they are beautiful, emotional images that commemorate the life of the lost.


Unidentified Photographer. [Young woman holding a deceased infant] ca. 1850. Daguerreotype.

In viewing the collection, one can see that along with society’s attitude, memorial photography has evolved throughout the centuries. Early memorial photography depicted the deceased subject in their homes or in the photographer’s studios. Studio owners of the mid-19th century openly advertised and discussed their practice of memorial photography. The well-known firm of Southworth & Hawes of Boston often published advertisements and descriptions of their techniques in professional trade journals, “The way I did it was just to have them dressed and laid on the sofa. Just lay them down as if they were asleep. […] Then place your camera and take your pictures just as they would look in life, as if standing before you.” (1873, Josiah Southworth)


Unidentified Photographer, REMEMBER ME. ca. 1890. Gelatin or collodion printing out paper print.

Lee McDowell (American, Active 1883 – 1897) AUNT ELLA MAE (HUNTLEY) KEETON. ca. 1895. Gelatin silver print.

After the 1880s, trade journals rarely published articles on the matter, photographers ceased advertising their services, and memorial photographers turned to re-photographing photographs of the deceased often surrounded by personal possessions and flowers, some conveying a symbolic meaning. As cameras became more accessible to the general population, families of the deceased often preferred to take these photos themselves, allowing greater control over who could see the resulting images.


Hughes Studio (American, active ca. 1940 – 1960) [Funeral floral arrangements and open casket.] ca. 1945. Gelatin silver print.

Currently, the openness and visibility of postmortem photography has largely decreased. However, organizations assisting with the mourning process, such as Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and contemporary artists such as Andres Serrano continue to make and circulate these photographs as both therapy and art.

 



 
 

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What a Night, George Eastman House Gala 2012

Posted by on Nov 27 2012 | Photography

Last night was an incredible evening of light & motion in New York City.  We celebrated our honorees, and proudly introduced our new director. A big thanks to all that helped make the gala possible, we could not have done it without you. We’d like to extend congratulations to each of our honorees.

We premiered this short during the gala which explains, educates and encourages those to remember: Who We Are.
 

 

 

 

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Votes For Women

Posted by on Nov 06 2012 | Photography

Nathan Lazarnick-Votes for Women Pilgrimage New York to DC 1913

We received these two lovely photos from our PPCM (Photographic Preservation and Collections Management) student, Meghan Shaw. Megan has been working on cataloging images here at the museum. These photographs are of a small pilgrimage from New York to Washington D.C. in the early 1900s, a great submission for election day.

Today, you have a right to vote – so head over and pull the lever for the curtain. Or, fill in the dots…

Nathan Lazarnick-Votes for Women Pilgrimage New York to DC 1913

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