Edward E. Stratmann (1953-2020)


Ed Stratmann, a major figure in the world of film preservation, and a long-time staff member of the George Eastman Museum, has passed away. He leaves behind his large and loving family, and the many friends he made during his 42 years working in the Moving Image Department at the museum. A long-time resident of Rochester, Ed graduated from Monroe Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology. He joined the George Eastman Museum in 1974 and retired in 2016.

For many, Ed’s kind, even jovial nature, was a reassuring presence at Eastman. You could always “ask Ed” and he would get back to you whatever the question. He was a one man preservation unit who worked with a succession of curators beginning with Chris Horak, to protect and preserve the ever-growing film collection. He worked with donors, researchers, and distributors helping to expand the collection and to provide access to the films under his care. He was patient, generous, and knowledgeable, and learned his skills on the job. Ed loved films. And he shared that love with everyone he came in contact with.

Ed curated exhibitions, introduced films in the Dryden Theatre, and represented the museum worldwide at festivals and conferences. He was a founding member of AMIA and served as Secretary to the Board from 2002-2004. He presented on numerous panels, and enjoyed meeting other archivists and exchanging ideas and opinions at the annual AMIA conference. He was the recipient of Pordenone Film Festival Preservation Award in October, 1998, and in December of that year AMIA conferred upon him The Dan and Kathy Leab Award. He was a long time member of FIAF’s North American Sub-committee on Preservation and was an active member of SMPTE from 1992 until his death.

He knew a great deal about film – the movies, the flicks – how they were made and how to reconstruct and repair them. Ed was largely self-taught and his skills were formidable. Ed’s main legacy resides in the dozens of films he preserved and restored for the museum, and if one stands out with great pride, it would be The Lost World (Harry O. Hoyt, US 1925). Ed spent 10 years reconstructing this remarkable silent film and the result of his diligent work has been seen and enjoyed by audiences all over the world.

His legacy also lives on through everyone he touched, especially the graduates of The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation. It was Ed who took the first class (1996-1997) of six students and provided the structure and one-to-one training of hands-on film handling and preservation. They stuck to him like glue and followed him in and out of the vaults, to screenings, and to work benches to learn what he knew. And he gave his attention and expertise generously. The next year he had twelve film preservationists in training, and he still managed to keep up with his heavy preservation work load and teach us at the same time.

Ed was exceedingly kind; he was always available to answer questions and to be there to help. His retirement in 2016 took us all by surprise – it was inconceivable that Ed wouldn’t be here every day, working in his office or, more often than not, at a workbench or a Steenbeck. He left formally, as Curator Emeritus of the Moving Image Department, but he stayed to come back and teach each new class in the Selznick School and to be a grounding presence at the annual Nitrate Picture Show. He demonstrated handling nitrate film, chatted with patrons, and connected with friends and Selznick graduates. It would not be too strong a statement to say that Ed was an institution within an institution. Everyone on the staff at the Eastman Museum knew Ed and loved him.

He was so dedicated to his work, that when stored nitrate films caught on fire, he spent hours on a forklift ferrying exhibition crates to safety from the barn next to the fire. He had to be dragged off the forklift to get him away from the nitrate fumes.

Ed will be sorely missed by his many friends and colleagues at the museum. But we will have stories to tell about the legendary Ed Stratmann. He was one of a kind.


Caroline Yeager

Associate Curator

Moving Image Department,George Eastman Museum