Close to 300,000 original black-and-white photos spanning the 20th century, and first published in popular media such as Life magazine and The Saturday Evening Post, now belong to Toronto's Ryerson University.

An anonymous donor who purchased the archives of the Black Star photojournalism agency – the world's oldest of its kind – has given the collection to the university.

The New York-based company has also donated $7 million to help support the "preservation, study and exhibit of the collection," which the school will house and display in a new gallery. Ryerson's School of Image Arts will administrate the collection.

"We are honoured that Ryerson University has been chosen as the custodian of images that fundamentally shaped and informed how we saw the world in the 20th century," Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse said in a statement Tuesday.

"Our campus will be a destination for historians, photographers, and scholars from around the globe, and our students and faculty in all university departments and faculties will have the extraordinary opportunity to study this treasure trove first-hand."

Black Star president Ben Chapnick called the downtown Toronto school "the perfect venue."

"It provides not only for the exhibition of the material, but for a strong educational use as well," he said. "It completes two of my dreams: that the collection be kept together and that it be housed in an institution that has an affinity for photojournalism."

The collection contains iconic images by the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andreas Feininger, Marion Post-Wolcott and other famed photographers and photojournalists of the 20th century. The Black Star collection covers a wide range of subjects and personalities: from the American Civil Rights movement to Expo 67 in Montreal, from early film star Charlie Chaplin to media theorist Marshall McLuhan.

As Canada's largest photography school, Ryerson's School of Image Arts has become increasingly well-regarded in the world of photographic education and preservation.

In November 2003, the university teamed up with photography museum George Eastman House to create what was called the world's first master's program in photographic preservation and collections management. Last month, Ryerson announced that Kodak Canada recently donated its entire historic company archives to the school, which is also in line to receive an extensive collection exploring the history of photography from U.S. private collectors Nicholas and Marilyn Graver.