ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Some of the most hurt by the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis are non-for-profits in Rochester.
Inspired by the partnership between United Way of Greater Rochester and the Rochester Area Community foundation, News 8 is producing a series of stories showing what a different non-profit does, how the crisis affects them, and how people can help.
The United Way has launched the “Community Crisis Fund,” to allow rapid deployment of resources to help non-profits impacted by the virus outbreak.
Its the world’s oldest museum of photography and film. They work in collections, but also provide public programming and daily tours.
The museum proper is in the restored home of George Eastman, and they also maintain and curate the gardens in the warmer months. The museum is also home to the Dryden Theatre.
We spoke with Vice President of Development Lisa Seischab.
What do you do?
We have a very active calendar of exhibitions and public programming, but we also work with our collections, preservation, conservation of Mr. Eastman’s estate, all to keep it open to the public as much as possible.
The first thing you see is the mansion, and that also houses the George Eastman Legacy collection, which is a collection of everything having to do with his life, his business, anything archival.
Then we have the historic estate, which many of those sections have been restored to look as they did when Mr. Eastman lived there.
We also have tours of the garden.
The Dryden Theatre is part of the museum, and it’s our moving image department’s primary exhibition space. The films that you see there — while we do occasionally take loans — are primarily films from our collection that have been preserved. That’s running year round with films.
It is the one institution that can truly tell the entire story from photography and film from their earliest days. We have collections that date back to 1839 — the year of the invention of photography — all the way to the present, and it’s the same for film.
It’s a depiction of every aspect of humanity from that period of time to contemporary life. And just as any museum does, in order to preserve those images for our research, education, and personal enrichment, it’s important that we’re preserving that legacy.
These are also very fragile objects; if they’re not kept in appropriate climate-controlled conditions, they’re disappear.
For Mr. Eastman’s legacy, not only was he a pioneer in business, so there’s a lot that people can continue to learn from him, as well as all he did in the community. He impact his community tremendously, and supported institutions around the country.
We would love people to appreciated that these are precious art forms that feel very accessible to us, because we can all take a photograph on our phone. We know what that experience is like. We know how treasured those images are to us.
We can appreciate the ways that artists have taken to that medium to express themselves in many different ways.
Here in Rochester was the place where photography became popular. Mr. Eastman took what was a very cumbersome process to something that could be done with click of the button. It redefined life around the world. That happened here.
How has the crisis affected you?
We have been closed to public since March 13th. So we have no revenue coming in from admissions or programs. We do renting events, and those aren’t happening, neither are paid workshops.
Because of the financial uncertainty, we are soon to be furloughing 14 full staff members for a month, with the intention of bringing everyone back as soon as we can.
A lot of us work at home, but trying to be ready for our audiences when we can open again. Curators are home.
It is a challenging time to raise money for cultural institutions.
But we’re doing the “Eastman at Home” initiative. Audiences can access the museum is new ways. We have a tour online at 1 p.m. on April 3rd on our technology collection. That’s of Kodak cameras, and so far 350 people have registered, and we can take up to 500.
We are having our Curator of Film Exhibitions introducing select films that can be easily streamed by people at home. It’s that Dryden Theatre experience at home.
What can people do to help?
We’re strongly encourage people to renew their membership, become new members, and they can donate online.
That’s unrestricted funding that’s used to support everything that we do. We typically need to raise $1.9 million annual in that kind of funding to help balance our budget.
Being an ambassador for us in the community, and tagging us on social media or using the #EastmanMusuem, and let others know how special the museum is to our community.