Do you appraise photographs? SHOW

The Museum does not offer appraisals of the monetary value of photographs; however staff can help the visitor to understand the photographic process, the date and significance of some photographic material. This can be an important “first step” in deciding whether to enlist the services of a professional appraiser.

What’s the difference between a daguerreotype and an ambrotype? SHOW

The daguerreotype was the first practical photographic process. The image is made on a copper plate with a light-sensitive silver surface. Its surface is mirror-like, and best viewed by reflecting something dark onto the plate. The daguerreotype process was first made public in 1839, and began to be replaced by other processes around 1857. Ambrotypes, which consist of a glass plate collodion negative image, backed by some type of black material (which reverses the image to a positive one) were made from 1854 to around 1865. The image has rather dark, flat, uniform tones. Initially ambrotypes were called “non-reflecting daguerreotypes,” but the processes are very different, although the size and method of presentation in a small, sometimes ornate case is the same. Both daguerreotypes and ambrotypes are one-of-a-kind photographic images (like the later “Polaroid”), since they are not printed from a negative.

How do I preserve my old photographs? SHOW

High heat and humidity can accelerate the deterioration of photographs. Therefore, it is advisable to store photographs in a room with moderate, non-fluctuating temperatures, and to avoid storage in the attic (too hot) or basement (too damp).

Will it hurt to make copies of my old photographs? SHOW

The risks with photocopying a photograph are more associated with handling than with exposure to the light of the copy machine. Careless handling can easily damage the photograph. Photo Collection staff can recommend sources for archival copying of old photographs or printing of old negatives.

Should I remove the photos from those black album pages? SHOW

While many old album pages are quite acidic, and therefore can contribute to the deterioration of photographs, in general, it is not advisable to remove a photograph from an album page. Not only does this put the image at risk of being torn, but also the context (the story and the captioning) is then lost. The use of interleaving and storage boxes to consolidate a deteriorating album may be a better solution than taking it apart.

Where do photographs in the Eastman House Collection come from? SHOW

Many of the best-known photographs in the Collection are from three sources: The Gabriel Cromer Collection of early French photography was acquired in 1939 by the Eastman Kodak Company, and was the core of the holdings of the museum when it opened ten years later. The Alden Scott Boyer Collection was added in 1951. This contained some important 19th Century British photographs, as well as a very large collection of daguerreotypes by the Boston studio of Southworth and Hawes. The last of the three large components was the 1977 addition of the Lewis Walton Sipley “American Museum of Photography” Collection. When the Philadelphia museum closed, the contents went to the 3M Company in Minnesota, who later gave it to Eastman House. This collection complemented the Eastman House holdings with advertising photography, many family albums and stereo views, and glass negatives and lantern slides. Throughout the 50 years of the museum’s existence, its curators have actively sought new items to bring into the collection. Purchases of photographs from auctions and dealers, as well as donations from individuals have resulted in a collection that can illustrate and explain, through its objects, almost every aspect of the history and practice of photography, from its inception to the present.

Are all of the photographs in the Eastman House Collection "original" photographs? SHOW

Only a small portion of all photographs were created as unique, one-of-a-kind images. These include daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, and a few other processes. Photography is by its very nature, a reproductive medium, i.e. multiple images are made from a single negative. Collectors make a distinction of the “vintage” print. This means that the particular image was made close to the time that the negative was made, by the same individual who made the negative, using the materials, the paper and processes of the day. Later prints made from an earlier negative, prints made by someone other than the photographer and photographic copies of another photograph all have less significance to the collector. Eastman House collects and displays vintage photographs. Exceptions to this might include photographs displayed in long-term, didactic exhibits.

Can anyone do research on photographs in the George Eastman House Collection? SHOW

Yes, no academic credentials are required. Many of the most enthusiastic and diligent researchers come simply because they enjoy the experience of looking carefully at photographs. No fees are charged to do research.

Do I need an appointment to look at photographs in the Eastman House Collection? SHOW

Yes. The Photo Collection Study Center is open by appointment on Tuesdays through Fridays. Please call Assistant Archivist Joe Struble to discuss your interests and to schedule a time to view material in the Collection. The Collection is strong in 19th Century photography, with significant holding of early to mid-20th century material. Recent contemporary photographers may be represented by only a few images. The collection is most accessible through the name of the photographer. We are also able to show good examples of most all of the historical photographic processes, both black and white and color. The staff is used to dealing with all manner of interests related to photography and culture, but some research topics may require a preliminary visit to the library to identify makers and sources of materials. Standard museum handling procedures included use of cotton gloves and pencils and is required in working with original material.

Do you have any pictures of the Civil War? SHOW

There is a small but significant collection of Civil War images in the collection, including complete sets of the plates from the books “Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War” (Alexander Gardner) and “Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign” (George N. Barnard). There are also stereo views by Anthony & Co., Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan as well as a collection of carte-de-visite portraits of soldiers.

Are reproductions available? SHOW

Although we do not make photocopies (Xeroxes) of any original material, the Museum makes digital reproductions of many of the images in the Collection. Prepayment is required and turnaround time is about three weeks. Options exist for using a photograph in the George Eastman House collection in a book film or video.


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