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UT’s Ransom Center gets $200 million donation of Magnum photographs

The famous, historically significant Magnum Photos collection, valued at $200 million, has been donated to the Ransom Center at the University of Texas, university officials announced Friday night.

The gift came from Michael and Susan Dell, Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman and John and Amy Phelan. Glenn Fuhrman and John Phelan, well-known art collectors, are co-managing partners and co-founders of MSD Capital, the private investment firm for the family of Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell Inc.

“The Dells, the Fuhrmans and the Phelans have given UT one of the richest collections of photographs documenting the visual culture of the 20th century,” UT President Bill Powers said Friday. “It will serve as a tremendous resource for our students and faculty and for humanities scholars from throughout the world.”

The collection of 200,000 photos has been housed at the Ransom Center since 2010. MSD Capital purchased the Magnum collection in 2009 for an undisclosed sum. It’s now valued at more than $200 million, a source familiar with the collection said.

“My partners and I are very pleased to formally gift this significant cultural resource to UT,” said Dell in a statement. “Over the past three years, the university’s Harry Ransom Center has served as an extraordinary steward of this substantial and important collection of prints by the world’s finest photojournalists, making it accessible to researchers and students for research and study.”

The donation represents a significant boost to the University of Texas’ capital campaign to raise $3 billion in grants and donations by next year. The Magnum Photos collection is expected to be the largest single gift to the Ransom Center ever, Powers said.

The Magnum collection includes original press photographs taken by such legendary photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and Elliott Erwitt, among others.

UT agreed to house the Magnum collection at the Ransom Center for five years for exhibition and study, thus making it available to the public for the first time.

The collection contains photographs dating from the 1930s and includes images of major world events such as the Spanish Civil War, the D-Day landings and the U.S. civil rights movement. The collection also includes photos of such cultural icons as Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Monroe and Martin Luther King Jr.

With more than 5 million photographs in its holdings, the Ransom Center is recognized as one of the leading photographic archives in the United States.

In acquiring the collection, UT does not acquire the copyrights to the photographs. Individual photographers retain copyright of their images.

The Ransom Center recently opened the exhibit “Radical Transformation: Magnum Photos into the Digital Age,” featuring more than 300 images. It is on view through Jan. 5.

The Dells and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation have been significant supporters of UT. Earlier this year, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation gave a $50 million grant to establish the Dell Medical School. In 2006, the foundation granted $50 million, enabling three new facilities at UT: the Dell Pediatric Research Institute, which complemented the nearby Dell Children’s Medical Center; the Dell Computer Science Hall; and the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living.

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