When Nancy and Norton Dodge gave 4,000 Soviet nonconformist paintings and other works of art to the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum in 1991, the art world took notice. The gift made the Rutgers University–New Brunswick museum the leading site for the study of the genre, which defied the Soviet state’s constraints on subject and style.

The Dodges had promised to eventually give the rest of their collection—more than 17,300 works—to the museum. In November, Nancy Ruyle Dodge made good on that pledge, and the entire collection now has a permanent home at the Zimmerli.

Dodge and her husband, who died in 2011, entrusted Rutgers with the initial gift “because we believed the university deeply understood our goals,” she says. “More than a quarter of a century later, I know our confidence was well placed.” The collection is valued at $34 million—the largest single gift in Rutgers’ history—and was accompanied by a $10 million endowment gift from the Avenir Foundation to further the Dodges’ vision of providing access to the works through exhibitions, publications, and scholarship.

The collection reveals “the astonishing and heroic story of the Dodges’ efforts to locate, collect, and preserve a vast body of work that was officially not even supposed to exist,” says Thomas Sokolowski, the museum’s director. 

Dodge is pleased that the collection will be available to students, scholars, and the public. “There’s a person who might feel trapped somewhere,” she says. “If he sees a work of art that was created by someone in a similar situation, I think that would be inspiring.”