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University museum receives $2 million artwork donation

The gift, from an anonymous donor, includes 135 large-format Polaroids, primarily from David Levinthal’s legendary 'Blackface' series.

MECOSTA COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University has received a multi-million donation to their powerful collection of artwork.

The anonymous donation of 135 large-format Polaroids done by photographer David Levinthal and is valued at more than $2 million.

The donation is primarily from Levinthal's legendary Blackface series, but also includes works from his Barbie and Mein Kempf series.

Levinthal is known for using small toys and props with dramatic lighting to construct min environments of subject matters varying from war scenes to voyeurism to racial and political references to American pop culture.

“Levinthal’s Blackface series is a blunt, unfiltered rendering of anti-black representations in the objects once—no, still—found in our homes,” said David Pilgrim, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion.

“He used his camera to document the ugly representations of African-Americans in the toys, games, and dolls played with by this nation’s children. These images both reflected and shaped attitudes toward black people. Levinthal’s prints will be invaluable teaching tools for the Jim Crow Museum,” added Pilgrim.

Museum officials say that because of this donation, the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia now possesses one of the largest collections of Levinthal's Blackface originals in the world.

The Blackface series is a powerful and thought-provoking exhibition of black memorabilia and racist household objects, many of which are currently collected and displayed as part of the Museum’s educational and scholarly mission to use objects of intolerance to examine expressions of racism and promote social justice.

“This wonderful gift to the Jim Crow Museum and Ferris is one of the most significant gifts that we have ever received,” said Ferris President David Eisler.

“Receiving a gift of this size demonstrates the unmatched significance that the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia has on our society. We are grateful for donors such as this who choose to help us in this endeavor to educate and inform,” added Bob Murray, associate vice president of Advancement at Ferris.

David Levinthal has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and has works included in numerous museum collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, and The Menil Collection.

Museum officials have catalogued all of the items and are preparing many for public exhibition.

A grand opening event is expected to happen in December.

If you would like to learn more about the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, click here.

To learn more about David Levinthal and his work, you can visit his website.

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