Historic Photo Print Archive, Featuring Iconic 20th Century Images, Has New Owner and Home

Feb. 2, 2010

New York, NY — Magnum Photos, Inc., MSD Capital, L.P. and the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin today jointly announced a landmark partnership under which the Magnum Archive Collection, which contains nearly 200,000 original press prints of images taken by world-renowned Magnum photographers, will be preserved, catalogued and made accessible by the Ransom Center. The Collection will reside at the Ransom Center pursuant to an agreement with its new owner, an affiliate of MSD Capital, which recently acquired the prints from Magnum Photos.

The arrival of the Magnum archive at the Harry Ransom Center
The arrival of the Magnum archive at the Harry Ransom Center. Photo by Pete Smith.Photo: Pete Smith

Magnum Photos, the venerable agency founded, owned, and managed cooperatively by its member photographers, has been a standard of photographic excellence and innovation over the past 60-plus years. The vintage prints in the Collection have been amassed since the 1930s and include images of major world events, celebrities, family life, poverty, religion and social affairs by Magnum photographers including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Elliott Erwitt, Leonard Freed, Bruce Davidson, Rene Burri, Eve Arnold, Dennis Stock and more than 80 others.

Images of icons from Picasso to Marilyn Monroe, from Sinatra to Gandhi, and from Castro to a young Queen Elizabeth coexist in the Collection with depictions of international conflicts, political unrest and cultural strife. Included are famous photos from the Spanish Civil War, the D-Day landings and the Six-Day War, as well as unforgettable scenes of historic events: the rise of democracy in India, Afghanistan and Iraq; the U.S. Civil Rights movement; the Rwandan genocide; and much more.

The Collection will be preserved and cataloged by the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, whose photography collection holds the world's first photograph, and has substantial holdings in fine arts and photojournalism. The Ransom Center will encourage interest in the Collection through scholarly research, fellowships, lectures and exhibitions. The Center will also host visits and programs with Magnum photographers.

Managing Director Mark Lubell of Magnum Photos said: "MSD Capital is an ideal partner, with a deep appreciation of and commitment to this unparalleled collection of photographic prints. Housing the collection at the Ransom Center not only allows this archive to be studied by photographers but also helps satisfy the huge interest in it among historians, anthropologists, curators, journalists and the public at large. Through this arrangement, we are able to acknowledge, celebrate and preserve Magnum's historic past, and continue to be industry innovators by developing new platforms to distribute our future work."

MSD Capital, the private investment firm of Michael S. Dell, Chairman and CEO of Dell Inc., purchased from Magnum Photos the physical press prints, which include many of these photographers' most iconic images. Magnum's member photographers will retain the copyright and licensing rights to all of the images in the Collection.

"This is a singularly valuable collection in the history of photography," said Thomas F. Staley, director of the Ransom Center. "It brings together some of the finest photojournalists of the profession and spans more than a half century of contributions to the medium.  We are delighted to make these remarkable materials accessible to researchers and students."

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John C. Phelan, Co-Managing Partner of MSD Capital, said: "We immediately recognized the unique opportunity to own this extraordinary collection of prints by the world's finest photojournalists. The images contained within the Collection capture the events and spirit of the 20th century in a way that only Magnum photojournalists can."

Glenn R. Fuhrman, Co-Managing Partner of MSD Capital, added: "The Magnum Collection is an irreplaceable trove of American and world history.  Given the technical changes that have taken place in the world of photography, including the digitization of images, a collection of prints like these will never exist again."

Michael Dell commented, "I am so pleased to be able to entrust this significant body of work to the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas for research, study and exhibition. The Ransom Center has a well-known record of excellence and is ideally suited to manage the archiving and study of such a substantial and important collection. Having this incredible collection in Austin is especially exciting to me."

For more information, contact: Jennifer Tisdale, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512 471 8949;  Alicia Dietrich, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512-232-3667; Todd Fogarty, for MSD Capital, 212-521-4854; John Michael Kennedy, for Magnum Photos, 212-576-2700 x 243.

6 Comments to "Historic Photo Print Archive, Featuring Iconic 20th Century Images, Has New Owner and Home"

1.  Harold Billings said on Feb. 2, 2010

A collection of epic proportions and historic importance. Congratulations!

2.  Vme Edom Smith said on Feb. 4, 2010

I am so glad the Magnum Collection will be at the Ransom Humanities Research Center. The staff at the center demonstrates their knowledge and appreciation of the importance of photojournalism through this and other collections they are preserving and making available to future generations!

Dr. Vme Edom Smith, Director
Edom Foundation for Social Justice Through Photojournalism Education

3.  Emily Sides said on Feb. 4, 2010

When will it be open?

4.  Maureen Adair MD said on Feb. 5, 2010

My son graduated in May 2009 with a photography degree from St. Edward's University and has yet to find a solid photography degree. Will the HRC be hiring personnel to assist in cataloging and archiving this wonderful collection. I graduated from UT in 1976 with a Plan II degree and am thrilled UT has been gifted this collection of 20th century iconic photos that capture the shifting psychological periods and activate attendant memories and feelings I and others have for those periods of our life.

5.  BillW said on Feb. 15, 2010

It's interesting that HRC received such a great collection of photographs, but the only picture posted is one of them arriving in crates! You can do better than that.

6.  Jen Tisdale said on June 17, 2010

The Magnum Photos Collection, comprising more than 1,300 boxes of photographic materials, is now open to researchers, students and the public. Also available is an online inventory of the collection. http://budurl.com/magnumopens