The George Eastman House has announced that it has changed its name to George Eastman Museum, and has launched a new website at eastman.org. Leadership at Eastman Museum say the name change reflects all that the institution encompasses: one of the world's foremost museums of photography and cinema, and the historic mansion and gardens of entrepreneur and philanthropist George Eastman.
"Our new name better conveys our institution's core identity as a dynamic museum with world-class collections in the fields of photography and cinema," says Bruce Barnes, the museum's director.
The possibility of renaming the institution came up when Barnes was interviewing for the position of director, but he decided to shelve the idea while settling into his new job.
The museum, originally chartered in 1947, was originally called "The George Eastman House Museum of Photography," and went through a few iterations, including "International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House," and until recently, just George Eastman House with a subtitle of "International Museum of Photography and Film."
"We've used the subtitle less and less in the three years since I've arrived because I just find it to be kind of clunky," Barnes says.
Barnes says that while traveling in Europe, he discovered people seem to have a better sense of the scope of the institution. Though there are people who are in the know here, he says, "there were a number of people in the United States who mistakenly believed that all we were was the historic house," unaware of the photography, film, and technology aspects.
"Which is kind of ironic," he says, because while the museum was opened in 1949, "it was given the name 'George Eastman House' to denote that it was located at Eastman's historic estate." But the actual house wasn't restored until the 1980's, it was just the bones of the building being used to house photographs and photographic equipment. "So the historic house portion of the institution didn't emerge until 1989-1990."
After two years of gathering anecdotal experience regarding the confusion of the name, "we did a very major brand positioning analysis and strategic analysis which overall took about a year," Barnes says. Staff embarked on a formal analysis via a survey designed by Brad VanAuken of Brand Forward. That process lasted for six to eight months, after which the newly branded George Eastman Museum enlisted the services of local firm A3 Design. In addition to a new name and website, the Museum has a sharp new logo.