Visitors to the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., over the past decade could not help noticing that the museum-in-a-mansion, the world's largest repository for all matters photographic, was struggling to keep up appearances. Everything about the former home of the man who introduced photography for the masses—from the mismatched furniture in the offices, to the sun-bleached curtains in the living room, to the grimly lighted café for visitors—seemed to convey an air of making do with less.
Upkeep and improvements won't be any easier now that the house's longtime benefactor, Eastman Kodak, has sought bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11. That everyone associated with the museum in recent years had seen this day coming, as digital technology conquered the photography and film market, has not softened the shock. For the first time since being chartered in 1947, the George Eastman House will have to get along without financial support from the company that has been its foundation.