The Eastman Legacy Collection

George Eastman

The Eastman Legacy collection is comprised of artifacts and records relating to the life and career of George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Company. Thousands of these items are housed in the George Eastman Archives and Study Center, open to the public for study and research. But the largest objects in our collection are Mr. Eastman’s fifty-room, one hundred year-old mansion and gardens—we invite you to visit and tour this magnificent home.

More about George Eastman

The Collection

The George Eastman Collection consists of George Eastman’ restored home, furnishings, decorative arts, and related artifacts. It also includes substantial holdings of his personal and business correspondence, private library, photographs, negatives, films, and related personal items. The Museum opened to the public the George Eastman Archive and Study Center in 1999. This area, located above the Dryden Theatre, holds all items, in one location, that relate to George Eastman, including letters and documents, photographs, furniture, and personal belongings.

Materials

The George Eastman Collection, made up of more than 62,500 items can be categorized as follows:

  • Eastman’s house, furnishings, and decorative arts
    The smallest of these categories, but the most significant, is the 35,000-square-foot Colonial Revival historic house built between 1902 and 1905 for Eastman and the collection of original, reproduction, and period furnishings and decorative arts used throughout the main historic rooms and the second and third floors. This collection numbers approximately 500 artifacts and includes textiles such as oriental carpets, draperies, and portieres; light fixtures, some of which double as planters; furnishings such as desks, chairs, tables, and bookshelves; art work such as oil paintings and photographic reproductions of paintings and watercolors; and bronze sculptures and decorative arts such as vases, cigarette boxes, jardinieres, frames, and globes.

  • Eastman’s manuscripts and books
    The Eastman manuscript collection is composed of 154 boxes filled with 45,600 items of personal and business correspondence received by Eastman from 1879 until his death in l932, along with 40 bound volumes of the responses he made to these letters. The collection also consists of 40 scrapbooks kept by the Eastman Kodak Company publicity department that outline the activities of Eastman and the Eastman Kodak Company from the late l880s until l932. Personal souvenirs from business trips and vacations, awards, Eastman family memorabilia, and items relating to the Eastman Commercial College, a business school started by Eastman’s father, fill 33 archival boxes and Eastman Kodak Company paper ephemera fill 8 boxes.

    Among the personal letters is a 12-year correspondence between Eastman and Booker T. Washington, head of Tuskegee Institute, a black college that Eastman financially supported. Letters from famous photographers such as Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz and well-known explorers such as Osa and Martin Johnson are also part of this collection.

    In addition, the collection includes letters from four United States Presidents – Theodore Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. A l922 letter from Harding thanks Eastman for returning $20,000 to the United States government, excess profits that the Eastman Kodak Company had made on war contracts.

    The business correspondence describes the development of the products and processes of the Eastman Kodak Company as well as information on the photographic industry in the United States. Eastman’s correspondence with inventors, manufacturers, directors, and actors in the motion picture industry also provide unique historical documentation on the growth of this industry.

  • Eastman’s personal photographic collection

    Eastman’s personal photograph collection contains both loose photographs and photo albums, nitrate and glass plate negatives, and lantern slides taken by or given to Eastman. There are 58 boxes of photographic prints of the Eastman family, Eastman’s African safaris, his vacations and business trips, his philanthropic interests, and the Eastman house and gardens. Thirty boxes relate specifically to the Eastman Kodak Company. More than 9,500 nitrate negatives and 3,642 lantern slides have been put onto videodiscs and are easily accessible to researchers. Most of these negatives deal with Eastman’s trips to Europe, East Africa, and his second home, Oak Lodge, in North Carolina.

  • Films and videos taken by Eastman or documentaries about Eastman and the Eastman Kodak Company

    Eastman’s film collection is composed of 20 films and videos that were either taken by Eastman (on safari or at home entertaining his grand niece and nephew) or for Eastman at special events, such as the announcement of Kodacolor alongside Thomas Edison in l928 at George Eastman House or Eastman’s speech to the Society of Motion Picture Engineers in l931. The films give a good indication of the technology available in home movies in the early l920s and l930s and have captured some rare footage of Eastman and other important figures of the time.

  • Kodak Advertising from 1880–1980

George Eastman Archive and Study Center Access

The Museum’s dedication to maintaining George Eastman’s legacy is supported by the George Eastman Archive and Study Center, a research center designed to properly store and make publicly accessible Mr. Eastman’s collections.

George Eastman Collection

The George Eastman collection consists of Mr. Eastman’s restored home, furnishings, decorative arts, and related artifacts. It also includes substantial holdings of Mr. Eastman’s business and personal correspondence; personal photographs and negatives; early motion pictures; films and videos; patents; and a variety of three-dimensional objects such as vintage hunting and camping equipment.

The collection contains information on a wide variety of topics

  • Eastman Kodak Company history (1879–1932)
  • History of photography, including photographic inventions and patents
  • Cinematography, including early motion picture developments
  • Hobbies such as fishing, hunting, camping, biking, and automobiling
  • Americana
  • Local history–industrial and community development such as area parks, health care, education, cultural and civic organizations, etc.
  • Eastman Commercial College
  • House restoration
  • Gardens and greenhouses
  • GenealogyóEastman and Kilbourn family genealogies, Kodak employees and correspondents of Mr. Eastman
  • American social and cultural history during Mr. Eastmans lifetime (1854–1932)

Study Center Access

Many materials are available for on-site research using computer stations and library resources. Other materials may be purchased or borrowed from the center for educational purposes.

  • Trained volunteers staff the study center and provide research assistance to visitors.
  • A slide and video library contains images of George Eastman’s house before, during, and after restoration; George Eastman at different ages; his relatives, friends, and contemporaries; and most artifacts in the George Eastman collection.
  • Microfilm reader printers allow easy access to Mr. Eastman’s correspondence.
  • A reference library covers George Eastman; Eastman Kodak Company; local history; historic preservation and restoration; and photographic and film history.
  • More than 1,500 files supply information on the life of George Eastman; the history of George Eastman House and gardens; Eastman Kodak Company; restoration suppliers and contractors; genealogical research; and much more.
  • More than 62,500 artifacts in the George Eastman collection are accessible.

What we can do for you...

Do you need a photograph or an illustration for a publication?

The study center can provide reproduction slides or prints of any object in the George Eastman collection.

Do you need information on George Eastman for a school report?

Stop by the study center and pick up a package of materials

What you can do for us...

Do you have a story to share about Mr. Eastman or an event you attended at George Eastman House?

The Museum has an active oral history program. Please contact the curator to arrange an interview.

Do you have an object that belonged to George Eastman or the Eastman House?

The Museum continues to collect and preserve artifacts related to George Eastman, his historic home on East Avenue, and Eastman Kodak Company.

Directions to the George Eastman Archive and Study Center

The study center is located above the Dryden Theatre and is accessible from the second floor of the house. A stairway lift will assist visitors with physical access to the center.

George Eastman Study Center Hours

Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m.

Appointments are suggested but not required.

For more information, please call us at (585) 271-3361 ext. 242, fax us at (585) 271-6682, or e-mail us at GESC@geh.org.

The George Eastman Archive and Study Center is made possible with generous support from Eastman Kodak Company, Thomas N. Tischer, Davenport Hatch Foundation, Robert F. Holroyd, the estate of David J. Cohan, the Ruth D. Maurer Memorial Fund, and S.A.S. Design Associates.



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