Eastman Museum receives NFPF grant to restore three nitrate films

The George Eastman Museum will preserve three rare, endangered nitrate feature films using funds from a more than $70,000 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

The 35mm prints of The Country Beyond and The Millionaire Vagrant likely are the only versions of the films that exist, museum officials said in a statement this week. The single reel from The Gold Rush, starring Charlie Chaplin, is the only material for the legendary film that survives with the original tinting.

Due to nitrate decomposition in each of the three films, it is the last chance to save the unique prints.

A fourth nitrate film in the Eastman Museum collection, The Oath of the Sword, will be preserved under a separate NFPF grant awarded to the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). The JANM will work in collaboration with the Eastman Museum to preserve this silent film made in the U.S. with an all-Japanese cast. Historians consider it the first Asian American motion picture.

The films are fragile and while decomposition is present in them, they are still viable for photochemical film preservation, and ultimately, digital access. The grant funds will be used for laboratory preservation work at Cinema Arts Laboratory in Newfoundland, Pa., and at Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services in Rochester, including 4K digital scanning and creating a new 35mm negative, a 35mm print and a DCP version of each film.

Upon completion of the project, the films will be available in 35mm prints and digital copies for both research and public screenings through the museum. The project will be overseen by Anthony L’Abbate, preservation manager at the George Eastman Museum.

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Eastman Museum presents free film series in solidarity with Black, Asian/Pacific Islander Americans

This summer, the George Eastman Museum is presenting two free film series in solidarity with Black Americans and Asian/Pacific Islander Americans.

Celebrating Asian/Pacific American Directors began July 1 and runs weekly through Aug. 19. The eight motion pictures that were chosen for screening showcase the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to cinema during the last three decades. Films include “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and more.

Spotlighting Black Film Artists began July 7 and runs weekly through Sept. 1. The nine films, from 1930 to the present, feature achievements by Black actors, directors and screenwriters and include iconic films such as Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It” and Gordon Parks’ 1971 classic “Shaft.”

The screenings are open to the public and take place at the Dryden Theatre at 7:30 p.m.

“Our core mission at the Dryden is to share the art of cinema that represents different visions, viewpoints and cultures – not to commemorate more lives lost to hateful violence,” said Bruce Barnes, the Ron and Donna Fielding Director of the George Eastman Museum. “Yet with so much fear, bigotry and discrimination in the world, we will continue to offer films as a powerful means to raise awareness, educate and spark conversation. These special film series, free to all, are one way in which we express our solidarity with peoples and communities under attack.”

The Eastman Museum during the last several years has responded to acts of atrocity by partnering with community organizations to present free film series at the Dryden, officials said. The Dryden was closed from January 2020 until April of this year, so it was unable to present a film series in the aftermath of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, George Floyd and other Black individuals. In the last year, the country has witnessed a surge of violence, harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans.

The first In Solidarity series, Summer of Solidarity, premiered in 2016 and was organized in commemoration of the lives of the victims at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

This year’s series are sponsored by the William & Sheila Konar Foundation, and the Celebrating Asian/Pacific American Directors series also is sponsored by Nocon & Associates.

More information on the two series can be found at Eastman.org/Dryden.

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Eastman Museum to offer virtual workshops

Beginning Friday, March 5, the George Eastman Museum will offer new ways to experience its photographic and moving image process workshops via online opportunities.

The Eastman Museum for decades has provided artists, educators and enthusiasts ways to explore photographic and moving image processes through its onsite Process Workshops that range from how to make a tintype to turning digital negatives into prints. The workshops drew participants from around the world to learn from the museum’s experts.

The new, virtual historic process demonstrations, online workshops and private virtual tutorials will be led by Historic Process Specialist Nick Brandreth.

Friday’s workshop is a process demonstration on how AZO-style paper is made. On April 30, the museum will offer another process workshop focused on making your own 35mm daguerreotypes.

Private virtual tutorials are available to individuals looking for a deep dive and who want a one-on-one instruction experience. The private sessions can be customized based on the individual or group.

More information on the workshops can be found at eastman.org/workshops.

The George Eastman Museum was founded in 1947 and is the world’s oldest photography museum, as well as one of the largest film archives in the U.S. Its holdings comprise more than 400,000 photographs, 28,000 motion picture films and 3 million archival objects related to cinema.

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Eastman Museum installs Colorama for new visitor center opening

As the George Eastman Museum continues its renovations, a reproduction of a Colorama image is being installed adjacent to the museum’s new Thomas Tischer Visitor Center, scheduled to open to the public Oct. 10.

The structure to display the Colorama has been built at the north end of the museum’s parking lot near the new main entrance at the ESL Federal Credit Union Pavilion. The new Colorama is 48 feet wide and more than 14 feet tall and is an 80 percent scale reproduction of the original Colorama that was installed in Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

The first installation is Colorama 531, a photo of Taj Mahal, India by Steve Kelly. (provided)
The first installation is Colorama 531, a photo of Taj Mahal, India by Steve Kelly. (provided)

The Colorama was one of Eastman Kodak Co.’s longest-running advertising campaigns that was first conceived in 1949. The massive backlit transparencies were designed to demonstrate the brilliance of color photography and advertise Kodak color film products to a mass market.

Until 1990, a new Colorama was installed every few weeks, resulting in a total of 565 transparencies. The advertising campaign ended in 1990 as Grand Central Terminal prepared for renovations and each giant transparency was destroyed.

But in 2010, Kodak donated the original photographic negatives, transparencies and guide prints used to create them to the George Eastman Museum, which preserved the objects.

The first installation is Colorama No. 531, a photograph of Taj Mahal, India, by photographer Steve Kelly. The original was installed in Grand Central Terminal in 1986.

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Dryden Theatre to host second ‘Dollar Babies’ film program

The Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum is calling for entries for its 2nd Annual Stephen King’s Dollar Babies short film program. Submissions will be accepted through April 30.

The program was started in 1983 when King began licensing some of his short stories to young filmmakers for $1. King has authored more than 50 novels and 200 short stories, and for more than 35 years has allowed student filmmakers to adapt some of the titles into their own projects.

The “Dollar Babies” give young filmmakers an opportunity to work on adapting a title for film and raising the profile of their finished film, officials said. More than 150 Dollar Babies have been shown in festivals around the world since King began the project.

Dryden’s inaugural Dollar Babies program kicked off last October with 13 shorts presented on two nights. Four of the filmmakers traveled to Rochester to participate in a question and answer session with Curator of Film Exhibitions Jared Case.

“Being invited to the George Eastman Museum to take part in their Dollar Babies screening event was the highlight of our festival run for ‘A Very Tight Place,’” said Dollar Babies director Stephen Tramontana. “The screening itself was fantastic, the sound and projection were both top-notch and it was inspiring to meet with the dedicated staff and see the important work they’re doing for film studies and preservation. For filmmakers, I can’t imagine a better venue to screen your latest work.”

The selection committee for this year’s Dollar Babies event will choose up to 14 short films to screen at the Dryden in October.

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George Eastman Museum breaks ground on new visitor center, entrance

The George Eastman Museum on Monday broke ground on the Thomas Tischer Visitor Center, a project several years in the making.

A rendering of the new entrance for the Eastman Museum
A rendering of the new entrance for the Eastman Museum

The new visitor center will be funded through several sources, including a more than $1.5 million donation from retired Eastman Kodak Co. chemist Thomas Tischer. The museum also received a $1 million grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, in conjunction with the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.

Additionally, last summer, ESL Federal Credit Union acquired the naming rights to the entrance pavilion for $1 million, enabling the project to proceed.

“The Visitor Center project is a wonderful example of all that can be created through the combined resources of an individual benefactor, a community-minded corporation and New York State,” said Kevin Gavagan, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. “We are here today because the foresight and generosity of these supporters have allowed us to initiate this transformative project, and we are most grateful.”

Tischer said he admired George Eastman and his accomplishments.

“I got to feeling it would be nice to have some accomplishment relative to a legacy, and the need for a new entrance was real,” Tischer said Monday.

Bruce Barnes, the museum’s Ron and Donna Fielding Director, met Tischer shortly after joining the museum seven years ago. Tischer pointed to the exterior doors of the cafe and said, “Don’t you think the museum entrance should be there?”

A project rendering of the entire George Eastman Museum visitor center and pavilion.
A rendering of the entire George Eastman Museum visitor center and pavilion.

In fact, in 1989, when the museum underwent major renovations, it was intended that a new parking lot would be constructed in the northwest corner of the property, closer to the entrance, but budgetary constraints upended that plan.

Tischer’s donation and the NYSCA grant will enable the reconfiguration of the Eastman Museum’s entrance and visitor center.

“During my seven-year tenure, our institution has appropriately placed the highest priority on the restoration of George Eastman’s landmark home and on upgrading the storage environments for our world-class collections,” Barnes said. “Yet, about three years ago Tom approached me and said he wanted to make a meaningful contribution to advancing the George Eastman Museum during his lifetime, and we agreed that we would work together to find a way to make the museum more welcoming and easily accessible, in part by relocating the main entrance so that it could be closer to the parking lot.”

The ESL Federal Credit Union Pavilion will serve as the museum’s new entrance, next to the Dryden Theatre. A new admissions desk, gathering places and renovated education and meeting hall will greet guests, as will a more mission-focused gift shop and a relocated café that includes seating in the historic Palm House.

The ESL Federal Credit Union Pavilion and Thomas Tischer and Thomas Tischer Visitor Center.
The ESL Federal Credit Union Pavilion.

The pavilion will be a glass-and-steel structure in front of the west façade of the one-story building, which originally served as Eastman’s garage and currently is the location of the museum’s café and shop. The structure will retain the historic façade of the garage.

The visitor center was designed by Flynn Battaglia Architects of Buffalo, while the Pike Co. served as general contractor.

Monday’s groundbreaking was attended by a number of local community and business leaders including Mara Manus, executive director of NYSCA; Monroe County Executive Adam Bello; Rochester Deputy Mayor James Smith; and Rep. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, among others.

ESL President and CEO Faheem Masood noted that 2020 marks ESL’s centennial and said that the organization’s purpose is to help the community thrive and prosper.

“At ESL we recognize the important role the Museum plays in our community. It brings the history of photography and film to life for the world to see and it allows us to celebrate the life of a man who did so much in the name of benefiting the Greater Rochester community,” Masood said.  “The impact of this project will be a welcome enhancement for the arts community and a transformation for the museum that will create a more immersive experience at one of Rochester’s most iconic institutions.”

The project is expected to be completed in July.

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NEH grant to assist Eastman Museum with nitrate film preservation

The George Eastman Museum has received a $340,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for its Protecting Nitrate Film Heritage project.

The funding, which comes from the Division of Preservation and Access, Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections program, will support the creation of a reliable, safe and sustainable environment for the museum’s renowned and extremely fragile collection of 35mm nitrate-based film materials housed at the Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center in Chili.

“The George Eastman Museum is committed to the stewardship and preservation of our world-class collections of cinema and photography,” said Bruce Barnes, the Ron and Donna Fielding director of the museum. “The substantial grant award from the National Endowment for the Humanities will allow us to continue our vital mission of preservation of our museum’s artistically and historically important collection of nitrate-based materials for the benefit of scholars, researchers, cinephiles and the general public.”

The conservation center holds some 24,000 reels of 35mm nitrate-based motion picture prints and negatives dating from 1893 to 1951, as well as 40,000 nitrate photographic negatives and 25,000 frame clippings from nitrate-based film prints. The original Technicolor camera negatives for the Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind are both housed there.

“The collection of nitrate prints and negatives is one of the treasures of our museum,” said Peter Bagrov, curator in charge, moving image department of the museum. “In many collecting institutions, nitrate films were destroyed after duplication to safety stock. The Eastman Museum did such an excellent job in protecting the nitrate elements that some of them are not only used for preservation today but are still projectable.”

Since 2015, the George Eastman Museum has held an annual Nitrate Picture Show, a unique festival that treats its audience to viewings of vintage films and prints as they originally were seen, as well as workshops and lectures. The fifth Nitrate Picture Show will be held from June 5 to 7, 2020.

The grant award from NEH will assist in funding the project that has an estimated cost of $730,000.

“Our work in the field of film protection could never be finished, as our goal is not only to preserve the motion pictures but to conserve the original elements as well,” Bagrov added. “This project will create a more favorable, more resilient and safer environment for our collection, keeping it viable for future generations.”

The George Eastman Museum was founded in 1947 and is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the largest film archives in the U.S.

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Museum receives National Endowment for the Humanities grant

The George Eastman Museum has received a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support its Preserving and Improving Access to the Boyer Collection project.

The NEH grant, from its Division of Preservation and Access, Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Program, will allow the museum to catalog and digitize the entire Alden Scott Boyer collection, giving the public complete access to images of the objects, and will enable the museum to hire two project staff, a cataloguer and an object photographer, for the term of the grant.

“The Boyer collection is one of the largest and most diverse gatherings of 19th-century British photography outside of the United Kingdom and features photographs by key American figures such as Southworth & Hawes and Carleton Watkins,” said Bruce Barnes, the museum’s Ron and Donna Fielding director. “The collection itself had a profound impact on the genesis and development of the history of photography as a discipline and served as a touchstone for institutional and private collection-building across the continent.”

Boyer, a Chicago-based chemical manufacturer, in 1951 donated his private collection of photographs to the George Eastman Museum. At the time, the Boyer collection represented one of the finest and most extensive private collections of photography in the U.S., and now is one of the most significant public collections in the country for the study of 19th-century life, history and culture.

The project will be overseen by Heather Shannon, associate curator of photography, and is slated for completion by the spring of 2022.

The George Eastman Museum is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the largest film archives in the nation. Located on the historic estate of entrepreneur and philanthropist George Eastman, the East Avenue museum was founded in 1947 and is undergoing a host of renovations.

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Jason Lee to be guest speaker at Eastman Museum

Actor, producer and photographer Jason Lee will present a special edition Wish You Were Here talk at the Dryden Theatre Aug. 23. (Photo by Raymond Molinar)
Jason Lee (Photo by Raymond Molinar)

Actor and photographer Jason Lee will present a special edition Wish You Were Here talk at the George Eastman Museum later this summer.

Lee, perhaps best known for his acting roles in “Almost Famous” and “My Name is Earl,” also was a professional skateboarder during the late 1980s and 1990s.

Lee’s passion for film photography developed in 2002 and he’s been an active photographer and film advocate since that time, having had his work published and exhibited through the years.

Following his 6 p.m. special presentation at the Dryden Theatre Aug. 23, Lee will sign copies of his new photo book, “A Plain View.” The book, the second installment in his series documenting rural America, consists of photographs taken in Texas in 2017. The images are rich in texture and saturation, revealing the unique characteristics of the expired 4×5 Kodak color films he photographs with.

The book will be available in the museum store, and doors open 45 minutes before the lecture begins. The full 2018 Wish You Were Here series will be announced later this summer.

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Eastman Museum acquires Levinthal photographs

2015.0005.0006 David Levinthal (American, b. 1949). The Searchers, 2014. From the series History. Inkjet print. George Eastman Museum, gift of Donald Rosenfeld, Jr. © David Levinthal
David Levinthal (American, b. 1949). The Searchers, 2014. From the series History. Inkjet print. George Eastman Museum, gift of Donald Rosenfeld, Jr. © David Levinthal

The George Eastman Museum has received more than 300 photos taken by David Levinthal, whose major works were first exhibited at the museum in 1978.

The photos were donated by an anonymous patron and from Donald Rosenfeld Jr. The museum is now the most significant repository of Levinthal’s art in the world. The retrospective, David Levinthal: War, Myth, Desire will run from June 2 through Dec. 30.

Since the mid-1970s, Levinthal has explored the relationship between photographic imagery and the events, characters, myths and fantasies that shape American culture. His work has been a touchstone for conversations about theories of representation in photography and contemporary art since that time.

“Levinthal is a major figure both in the history of photography and in contemporary art, and these milestone donations are a testament to his esteem for the Eastman Museum and its mission,” said Bruce Barnes, the Ron and Donna Fielding Director of the Eastman Museum. “The museum will preserve Levinthal’s photographs for future generations and be the place to study and appreciate his art.”

The retrospective of Levinthal’s work is the first museum retrospective in more than 20 years. To accompany the exhibition, the museum will publish a deluxe collector’s box set and a single-volume monograph.

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Eastman Museum acquires rare films

The George Eastman Museum has acquired and restored a rare collection of Lumiere films.

The 18 nitrate reels, all in nearly pristine condition, consist of seven 35mm negatives and 11 35mm positive prints dating between 1896 and 1903. The films will make their debut this week at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy.

“Finding a collection of Lumiere prints and negatives in almost mint condition, 120 years after their creation, is nothing short of extraordinary,” said Paolo Cherchi Usai, senior curator of the museum’s moving image department. “Their survival is a testimony to the resilience and longevity of cinematic artworks on nitrate film stock, whose preservation and public exhibition in their original medium and format is at the core of our mission as a collecting institution.”

Auguste and Louis Lumiere were French brothers and inventors who manufactured an early motion picture camera and projector called the Cinematographe. They are credited with creating the first motion picture for theatrical projection, La Sortie des Ouvriers de l’Usine Lumiere à Lyon, or Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory in Lyon, which debuted in 1895.

Relatively few original negatives of Lumiere films exist outside France; most are preserved at the Archives Francaises du Film of the Centre National de le Cinematographie and the Institut Lumiere.

The films acquired by the Eastman Museum were preserved at the Haghefilm Digitaal Laboratories in Amsterdam.

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