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George Eastman Museum secures $250,000 federal grant toward $2 million renovation project

The George Eastman Museum has received a substantial federal grant toward a major renovation project at that historic building on East Avenue in Rochester.

The $250,000 grant will go toward a more than $2 million project, which will be used to create new exhibition space within that mansion built in the early 20th century.

Museum Director Bruce Barnes said that while the museum has an extensive collection of equipment, they would like to display more of it in a way that helps trace the history of photography.

“But we don’t have anything that shows the evolution through the 20th century and then ultimately to digital technologies,” said Barnes. “And our collection has 18,000 cameras in it, our cameras and other devices in it. So there’s a great deal that we can draw on to show.”

Barnes says this project will also take a more in-depth look at George Eastman’s legacy, and how he did provide a lot of philanthropic support to organizations that helped Black Americans, even if he did not do a lot to stop employees at Eastman Kodak from discriminating against Black people.

“What we have come to learn is that George Eastman was not as proactive as we probably wish that he had been in terms of advocating for equal employment opportunities at Eastman Kodak, for example,” Barnes said.

The new exhibition will look to spur discussion among museum visitors on that topic as well as George Eastman’s efforts to develop housing for the working poor and his support for higher learning and STEM education.

It’s expected that the renovation project at the George Eastman Museum will take about two years to complete.

In addition to the quarter-million dollar federal grant, Empire State Development is providing $400,000 and Barnes said that there is a fundraising campaign to make up the balance of the funds needed for the renovations.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.