The Austin Chronicle

Ransom Center

Popping open the Magnum

By Robert Faires, June 25, 2010, Arts

Fans of photography started salivating in February when the University of Texas' Harry Ransom Center announced that it would be the new home to the archive of original prints from legendary cooperative Magnum Photos. Having this peerless collection of images – 210,000 prints, mostly silver gelatin, stretching from the 1930s to 2004 – in our own backyard was like winning the lottery, especially considering that the Ransom Center's five-year agreement with the collection's new owner – an affiliate of MSD Capital, the firm that manages the investments for Michael Dell and family – and Magnum allowed it to someday make the archive available for public viewing and study.

And now that day is here. Last week, the Ransom Center announced that it is providing access to all 1,300-plus boxes of Magnum materials. Researchers, students, and Jane and John Q. Public can see for themselves the stunning, iconic images created by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Susan Meiselas, Elliott Erwitt, and scores of other Magnum photographers. The center was able to fast-track the availability of the archive by creating a preliminary inventory that groups the images under broad headings such as photographers, personalities, subjects, geography, and portraits and snapshots of Magnum photographers, contributors, staff, and meetings.

That was a very deliberate move, according to David Coleman, the Ransom Center's curator of photography: "Upon receipt of the collection, one of the Ransom Center's top priorities was to provide access as soon as possible to the materials. While this preliminary inventory enables that access, our future goal is to provide more detailed information, to list personalities individually and include subcategories for the series relating to subjects and geographical locations."

An inventory of the collection can be found online. For more information, visit

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