The George Eastman Museum receives $250,000 Grant

The George Eastman Museum receives $250,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Grant funds will be used to preserve 135 fragile Pakistani films

Rochester, N.Y., October 31, 2023

The George Eastman Museum has received a grant award of $250,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through its Museums for America program to support its project Lost and Found: Classic Pakistani Cinema. The grant will allow the museum to identify, catalogue, repair, and clean 135 rare and fragile films from the Anwar Shiekh film collection. This project builds upon film conservation work that began in 2020 with a previous IMLS grant award for cataloging and conservation of more than 1,000 South Asian films. 

With nearly 1,500 35mm prints from India and Pakistan, the Eastman Museum is now the steward of the largest collection of South Asian 35mm film prints outside the subcontinent. Representative of all film genres, the collection is a historic record of the diversity of South Asian cultures and the significance of their contributions to the art of cinema. The languages represented in the museum’s film collection include Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. 

Film Reel from Sultanat 1960
Film Reel from Sultanat (1960)

“The George Eastman Museum is committed to preserving the art and history of cinema from around the world,” said Bruce Barnes, PhD, Ron and Donna Fielding Director of the George Eastman Museum. “We have identified the preservation of South Asian film heritage as one of our priorities.” 

“The project will enhance our institutional knowledge of the collection and improve the museum’s ability to engage and serve the interests of the Pakistani and South Asian communities, promoting cultural understanding and dialogue,” said Peter Bagrov, PhD, Senior Curator of the Moving Image Department. “The project directly aligns with our strategic plan of preserving significant cinematic works from around the world, as well as fostering access and education.” 

Film Reel from Sultanat 1960
Film Reel from Sultanat (1960)

During the three-year project, film preservationists will conserve and clean 35mm prints to prevent deterioration and decomposition, focusing on the oldest and rarest Pakistani films in the museum’s collection. They will also provide full documentation for each print, as well as free public access to film records and images through a dedicated webpage. A number of selected reels and fragments will be digitized and placed online for research purposes. 

The Eastman Museum’s commitment to South Asian cinema began with its urgent rescue of 775 35mm film prints of Indian motion pictures (1999–2013) from imminent destruction at an abandoned California multiplex in 2015. The next year, the British Film Institute transferred the Anwar Sheikh collection of about 441 film prints of Pakistani motion pictures (1950–1979) to the museum. This rare collection of films—in Urdu, Punjabi, and Hindi languages—features some of the earliest Pakistani films made after the partition of India in 1947. It reflects the cultural history of the Pakistani people, as seen through the works of filmmakers such as Armin Malik and Anwar Kamal, Pakistan’s first indigenous filmmaker. Other donations of South Asian films have followed.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage.

About the George Eastman Museum

Founded in 1947, the George Eastman Museum is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the largest film archives in the United States, located on the historic Rochester estate of entrepreneur and philanthropist George Eastman, the pioneer of popular photography. Its holdings comprise more than 400,000 photographs, 28,000 motion picture films, the world’s preeminent collection of photographic and cinematographic technology, one of the leading libraries of books related to photography and cinema, and extensive holdings of documents and other objects related to George Eastman. As a research and teaching institution, the Eastman Museum has an active publishing program, and its L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation’s graduate program (a collaboration with the University of Rochester) makes critical contributions to film preservation.