George Eastman House Director Anthony Bannon announces he will be retiring in July 2012

Longest-standing director in museum history; his tenure includes post-graduate schools, major acquisitions, alliances, and national honors

For Release 2011-07-22

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Dr. Anthony Bannon, director of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, announced today he will be retiring in one year — on July 31, 2012. He has held the position since 1996, and his 15-year tenure makes him the longest-standing director in the history of the museum. An international search will begin in coming months and Bannon will assist in the search process.

Bannon’s time at Eastman House has been eventful, with the creation of three post-graduate preservation schools, alliances with museums and universities, collectors clubs in large U.S. cities, and many of the most-attended exhibitions in the museum’s 64-year history, as well as the digitization of collections and aggressive social-media campaigns to share Eastman House’s unparalleled collections with the world.

“I am totally invested in George Eastman House and its wonderful extended family, but I feel it is time,” said Bannon, the Ron and Donna Fielding Director. “We have set into place a new and vigorous strategic direction, and it is time for new energy and vision to move that forward. I have been saying for years that our forbearers here at George Eastman House wrote the book about the photograph and film as objects worthy of preservation, of care, and of significance. Now it comes to us to share how these work in history and culture and to use them as vehicles that can carry us to any destination we might choose.”

Today Thomas H. Jackson became the new chairman of the George Eastman House Board of Trustees. He is President Emeritus and Distinguished University Professor at University of Rochester, where he was president from 1994 to 2005. He has served on the Eastman House board since 1994 and has held the posts of vice chairman and chairman of the museum’s Strategic Planning Committee and Education Committee. Jackson assumes the volunteer chair position held for four years by Susan Robfogel, an attorney and partner with Nixon Peabody.

“Tony has restored the international brand and leadership reputation of George Eastman House over his 15-year tenure ” Robfogel said. “It has been a great privilege of mine to have worked with Tony, as well as the amazing board and staff at Eastman House, for the past four years. We all owe Tony a deep debt of gratitude for his skillful and tireless efforts, vision, and leadership as director.”

Jackson said, “I look forward to working with Tony over the next year to continue the upward trajectory we have established and to ensure a smooth transition, as we celebrate his tenure over the next 12 months. Frankly, I’m sorry to see him go, but he will remain connected not just as Director Emeritus but also as George Eastman House Senior Scholar, as appointed by the Board of Trustees.”

Jackson cited many areas where Bannon has raised the Eastman House to a heightened level, “by bringing the museum into the digital era; by reinstating vigorous touring exhibition, loan, and publishing programs; by creating degree and certificate programs with three universities in New York and Canada; by adding important collections in every archive; by leading endowment, capital, and operations campaigns; and creating formal alliances and collaborations; by increasing Eastman House’s face globally through his world travels and service as a speaker and juror for major awards and festivals; and garnering lead stories in major publications such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Variety, Popular Photography, and Forbes.”

In his 15 years at Eastman House, Bannon led diversification of the Board of Trustees, which now has more of a national focus with many new members from outside the Rochester area. He also led creation of collectors clubs in large cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, and has initiated plans for satellite schools in photograph conservation in South Korea and Qatar.

Major acquisitions include the Edward Steichen estate; the archives of the Technicolor corporation and Merchant Ivory Productions; Kodak’s Colorama collection; and continued deposits by filmmakers including Ken Burns, Spike Lee, and Martin Scorsese, who are among the many faces of the photography and film world honored by Eastman House during Bannon’s tenure. Among those receiving awards are Jeff Bridges, Tony Curtis, John Frankenheimer, Isabella Rossellini, Graham Nash, Jessica Lange, Dennis Hopper, and Meryl Streep.

The world-leading post-graduate programs created under his direction are The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation, launched in 1996 as the world’s first permanent school of film preservation, offering both a one-year certificate program and a two-year master’s degree program in conjunction with the University of Rochester. A master’s degree program in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management has been offered since 2004, in conjunction with Ryerson University in Toronto. Both programs combine study of preservation practices with intense study of the collections. A world leader in photograph conservation and preservation for more than three decades, Eastman House was first institution to offer classes and training in these disciplines. Today the conservation staff offers workshops focused on historic processes on site and abroad.

Bannon’s time at Eastman House surpasses that of the six past directors, including famed photo historian and curator Beaumont Newhall, who held the post the second longest, for 13 years from 1958 to 1971. The chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Rocco Landesman, told the press while recently touring Eastman House, “Tony Bannon is a legend throughout the country.”

Bannon, 68, does not plan to “retire” from work in the arts, as he will continue working internationally in the field, as a speaker, writer, and consultant. His previous positions include director of Burchfield-Penney Arts Center and director of Cultural Affairs on the campus of State University of New York at Buffalo, as well as an editor and art critic with The Buffalo News and a filmmaker.

Bannon earned the Golden Career Award from the FOTOfusion Festival of Photography & Digital Imaging in 2007 and a year later was named CEO of the Year by the Public Relations Society of America, Rochester Chapter. In 2010, Bannon and an exhibition he curated that year — Roger Ballen: Photographs 1982-2009 — were ranked among the top five finalists for Curator/Exhibition of the Year by the Lucie International Photography Awards. And during Bannon’s tenure, Eastman House has earned the Governor’s Award and also honors for the motion picture collections and preservation efforts from the International Documentary Association and Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

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