The Smithsonian Institution is being offered title to and control of the $100 million Eastman Photo Archives in Rochester, N.Y., if it agrees to leave the archives in Rochester and pay $1 million a year toward the collection's maintenance. The Smithsonian would appoint the director and staff and set curatorial policies.
Smithsonian undersecretary Sam Hughes said yesterday that although the regents had not considered the new proposal, "I am not optimistic about the Smithsonian taking up this offer. In prior discussions, the regents have been standoffish about museums outside the Washington area."
In addition, the supporters of keeping the archives in Rochester are asking New York state to contribute $4.8 million toward the building of a 60,000-square-foot museum and conservation laboratories to house the collection. Supporters propose to raise another $2 million locally for the building project.
The offer was made by a consortium dedicated to keeping the archives in Rochester, which includes the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Rochester, the State University of New York College at Brockport, a citizen's group called Photo Archives Belong in Rochester (PABIR) and the trustees of the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House.
Acceptance of the photo archives would have to be approved by Smithsonian Secretary Robert McC. Adams and the Smithsonian Board of Regents, which will meet May 6.
Once the museum was complete, the local colleges would be expected to pay an estimated $200,000 a year to maintain the building itself as well as run classes and programs. About $800,000 to $1 million would have to be raised locally to pay bills.
"We've always had trouble raising money," said Cynthia Osborne Hewett, head of PABIR, "because it has been perceived as a Kodak museum and it isn't."
The Eastman Kodak Co. funded the museum's entire $100,000 budget when the museum opened in 1949. But by July 19, 1984, the museum had a $500,000 deficit. That was when the trustees voted to consider giving the collection to the Smithsonian. On Oct. 18, the trustees agreed to give local organizations a chance to organize a way to keep the collection in Rochester.
The treasure, valued at about $100 million, includes 500,000 photographs and 100,000 negatives, 5,000 motion pictures, 3 million motion picture stills, 20,000 photographic objects and 35,000 publications.