George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film is not a large organization. Measured only by its budget and paid staffers, the Eastman House does not stand out particularly.
But that yardstick, of course, hardly does justice to this institution, which has a well-deserved reputation as one of world’s top photography museums and as a leader in film and photograph preservation.
Indeed, as the Eastman House prepares to host a farewell gala for Anthony Bannon, its longest-tenured director, it is worth noting how non-profit cultural assets bring wealth to this community-a wealth no less valuable than the kind produced by for-profit businesses.
Institutions such as the Eastman House, the Strong National Museum of Play, the Rochester Museum & Science Center and others help put Rochester on the map. They draw people and dollars to the community and spread positive word about our region far and wide.
Cultural organizations also enrich the lives of those who live here. With the Eastman House, area residents have ready access to renowned exhibitions and rare collections that span the history of photography and motion pictures.
As with any business, there are no guarantees that a cultural treasure will endure and thrive. That requires skilled, committed leadership of the kind Mr. Bannon has displayed over the past 16 years.
During his tenure, the Eastman House has established a number of new programs, especially in the field of preservation; made major acquisitions such as the Edward Steichen estate and Technicolor and Merchant Ivory Productions archives; and greatly boosted outreach.
Embracing the Internet has helped the museum share its wealth. When the Bannon era began, the Eastman House did not have a website; today nearly half of its photography collection is digitized and it has a robust presence online.
Mr. Bannon will not be easily replaced. In addition to his leadership duties, he has traveled the globe as a speaker and as a juror for major awards and festivals, helping to raise the museum’s international standing.
His successor, however, will have a strong foundation on which to build, making it highly likely the Eastman House will continue to enrich this community for many years to come.
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