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>  News Releases >   2008 >   May

Manton Foundation gift endows Dartmouth's Digital Library Program and Orozco mural conservation

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 05/08/08 • Media Contact: Susan Knapp • (603) 646-3661

Jeffrey Horrell, Sandra Morton Niles '90, and Brian Kennedy
(l-r) Jeffrey Horrell, Sandra Morton Niles '90, and Brian Kennedy in front of Orozco's The Epic of American Civilization mural in Baker Library. (photo by John Sherman)

A major gift from the Manton Foundation will create a $3 million endowment to support the Dartmouth College Library's Digital Library Program. An additional $1 million endowment will support preservation and education programs for The Epic of American Civilization, a mural in the Reserve Reading Room of Baker Library painted by Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco between 1932 and 1934. In recognition of the Manton gift, the Reserve Reading Room on the lower level of Baker Library will be renamed The Orozco Room.

The 3,200-square-foot mural, one of Dartmouth's art treasures, traces the history of the Americas from the migration of the Aztecs into central Mexico to the development of modern, industrialized society. Generations of Dartmouth students have read and studied in the shadow of the frescoes, considered some of the finest examples of mural painting in the United States.

In addition to conserving the murals, the $1 million endowment will support programs facilitating their study and use for educational purposes. It will also provide for improvements to the Orozco Room and underwrite a Hood Museum of Art curatorial fellowship that will bear the Orozco name. The first large project that the endowment will support is the installation of a new lighting system for the murals.

"These endowments are made to honor the memory of my grandparents, Sir Edwin and Lady Manton," said Sandra Morton Niles '90, spokesperson for the Manton Foundation. "I have fond memories of studying in the Reserve Reading Room as a student at Dartmouth because the space was made so much more alive by the murals. Our gift reflects my family's appreciation of the importance of the work and my grandparents' lifelong support of the arts."

The Manton Foundation was formed by Edwin A. G. Manton, who was born in England in 1909 and known to his family, friends, and colleagues as "Jimmy." He was offered a scholarship to Cambridge but declined, opting instead for a job in Paris, in insurance. Five years later, in 1933, Sir Edwin joined what was then the C.V. Starr insurance group, the predecessor of AIG, and remained with the organization throughout his career, rising to be a director of AIG, executive vice president, and finally, senior advisor. In 1936 he married an American, Florence Brewer.

Sir Edwin was a major benefactor of the Tate Gallery in London, becoming its most generous benefactor after its founder, Sir Henry Tate. Sir Edwin established the American Patrons of Tate in 1988 and was knighted in 1994 by Queen Elizabeth II of England in recognition of his charitable contributions to the Tate.

"I admired Sir Edwin immensely, and I am so pleased that the Manton Foundation has made this generous gift in his memory," said Dartmouth President James Wright. "At Dartmouth we stress a hands-on, experiential approach to learning, whether it's in the humanities, the sciences, or social sciences. Generations of students have studied the Orozco murals, or studied under them in Baker Library. This gift will not only safeguard and promote one of our cherished artworks, but will help advance our digital media program, which is a major priority for the College."

The goal of the Dartmouth College Library's Digital Library Program is to digitize its collections and other scholarly material in order to offer new services to faculty, students, alumni, and the wider public. Among the potential print and manuscript collections to be digitized are the unique works from the Stefansson Collection on Polar Exploration; original artwork from the Edward P. Sine, Class of 1951 Collection of British Illustrated Books; Daniel Webster manuscripts, including his writings, notes, and correspondence; and pre-1700 illuminated manuscripts and selected texts in the Dartmouth College Library, including the fifteenth century Brut Chronicle.

The Manton Foundation gift responds to Dartmouth's commitment to support the work and resources of the Dartmouth College Library and the Hood Museum of Art, which are priorities in the College's Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience. With an ambitious $1.3 billion goal, Dartmouth is seeking investment in four initiatives: to advance leading-edge teaching and scholarship; to enhance residential and campus life; to honor its commitment to making education accessible in the undergraduate college; and to raise unrestricted dollars. The Campaign is institution-wide, embracing its undergraduate and graduate programs in the arts and sciences and its three professional schools, Tuck School of Business, Thayer School of Engineering, and Dartmouth Medical School.

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