From its beginning in 1963 with Harry Ransom's purchase of the Gernsheim collection, the Ransom Center's photography collection has encompassed the history of the medium in all its major manifestations. Holdings currently amount to over five million prints and negatives, supplemented by manuscripts, archives, and ephemera of significant photographers. Also included is a study collection of 400 pieces of original photographic equipment, as well as a growing library of over 35,000 books and journals on the theory, technique, art, and history of photography.
In addition to the earliest known surviving photograph by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the collection features significant holdings of such notable early photographers as William Henry Fox Talbot, D. O. Hill and Robert Adamson, Roger Fenton, Julia Margaret Cameron, Lewis Carroll, O. G. Rejlander, Henry Peach Robinson, Peter Henry Emerson, Paul Martin, and Christina Broom, among others. This range and diversity extends throughout the twentieth century with artists such as Alvin Langdon Coburn, E. O. Goldbeck, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Sir Cecil Beaton, Fritz Henle, Ruth Robertson, Eliot Elisofon, Arnold Newman, and David Douglas Duncan.