Out-of-towners all over the world generally make the assumption that the best of New York’s attractions lie solely in our Big Apple, but any true resident will tell you that’s most certainly not the case. Falling in an entirely different corner of our state, far distanced from our more popular cities, you’ll find handfuls of gem remaining under the radar out in the Western region of New York. One of the many places you should make a point of visiting, the George Eastman Museum is a place filled with so much interesting history, it’ll remind you why you’re proud to be a New Yorker.
Curious to learn more about one of the most important figures in photography’s history? Here are 11 fascinating things you probably didn’t know about the incredible George Eastman Museum:
1. The George Eastman Museum is the oldest photography museum in the WORLD!
That's right! George Eastman, known as one of the most instrumental hands in creating what was necessary to make photography something everyone could have apart of their every day life, bestowed the majority of his assets upon the University of Rochester!
Born in Waterville, Eastman sadly dealt with a degenerative disease of sorts the last couple years of his life, which affected his spine and ability to walk. At the age of 77, a goodbye note was left stating
"To my friends - My work is done. Why wait?", and Eastman took his own life. Left to the University of Rochester was Eastman's Colonial mansion which was completed in 1905 right in Rochester, New York.
2. In George Eastman's passing, he explained that he hoped the mansion could serve as the residence for the University of Rochester's president.
For many reasons, mainly being the overall size of the house, the residence proved to have a much better purpose. Lucky for the history of photography and film, in 1947 New York State's Board of Regents created George Eastman House Inc., a nonprofit educational institution and museum for photography.
3. A year after the George Eastman House Inc. was formed, the University of Rochester donated George Eastman's mansion and remaining property to the museum.
What George Eastman managed to create at this mansion while living here was truly unique. The property featured over 10-acres of working farm land, beautiful gardens, barns and more. The estate was also declared a National Landmark in 1966!
4. When the museum opened in 1949, it was only one of two American museums that featured a photography department.
5. The museum is now home to a world-class collection.
The museum itself is made up of over 400,000 photographic objects! Holy cow! The advantage to being one of the first facilities to showcase the history of photography and film? You get first dibs on some of the greatest stuff! For the first couple of decades the museum had little to no competition when it came to collecting photographic objects. Many of the pieces you'll find in the museum were remarkable gifts from collectors, filmmakers and photographers.
6. In 1951, the museum opened the gorgeous Dryden Theatre which seats 500 people.
The theater shows films seven days a week and stays devoted to showing visitors the films in their original format, helping to keep the historical aesthetic alive. The theater first debuted it's first feature film screening on March 14, 1951 showing
Nana by Jean Renoir.
7. The Dryden Theatre is one of the last few places in the world that is equipped for the projection of original nitrate film!
If you're like myself and have seen Quentin Tarantino's
Inglorious Basterds, then you're most likely having flashbacks right now. It's truly amazing all the history that lies at this incredible New York museum!
8. George Eastman earned not one, but
two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Being the founder of the well known Kodak company has its perks doesn't it? Featured in the Motion Picture category, Eastman has one star on Vine Street and the other is pointed into the Kodak theatre.
9. For nearly 40 years the museum used George Eastman's mansion to display objects from its collections.
As the museum's collections grew larger with time and experts became more knowledgable about the sort of conditions the photographs and films were to be kept in, a new facility was built. It was then in 1989, the museum would complete the construction of a 73,00 square foot building! Almost entirely below ground level, the building features climate-controlled vaults, galleries, libraries and offices.
10. When the mansion was no longer being used to showcase photographic collections, it underwent a remarkable restoration.
Made up almost entirely of women, a group set out to put together an exact restoration of the historical home. Using historic evidence and old photographs, the mansion underwent a facelift and over 85% of the original furnishings were restored.
11. You can even conclude your trip to the museum by taking a seat with George Eastman!
Did you do a double take? Don't be frightened! It's just a mere cutout of George Eastman reading the paper, waiting for you in the upstairs study!
Did you know about the George Eastman Museum? Share with us your favorite part of the museum if you’ve ever had the pleasure to visit!