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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art is the only national museum in the United States dedicated to the collection, exhibition, conservation and study of the arts of Africa.
The building houses the museum’s collection, exhibition galleries, public education facilities, an art conservation laboratory, a research library and photographic archives.
The museum’s collection of more than 10,000 African art objects represents nearly every area of the continent of Africa and contains a variety of media and art form—textiles,Photography, sculpture, pottery, painting and jewelry and video art—dating from ancient to contemporary times.
The museum has the largest publicly held collection of contemporary African art in the United States.
The museum has nearly 22,000 square feet of exhibition space, which is reconfigured periodically to meet the requirements of the museum’s changing exhibitions. The Sylvia H. Williams Gallery, located on sub-level one, is devoted primarily to contemporary art; the Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection has a dedicated space in the museum to rotate a selection of the 525 objects from this collection; and the remaining galleries offer exhibitions on various subjects.
Education and Research
The National Museum of African Art offers a variety of educational programs, including
lectures, films, storytelling, musical performances, young people’s
workshops, teacher’s workshops, and conservation and curatorial clinics. The museum also has programs and activities at Washington, D.C., area schools and embassies.
The Warren M. Robbins Library, named for the museum’s founder, is a branch of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries system and supports research, exhibitions and public programs of the museum. It is the major resource center in the world for the research and study of the visual arts of Africa, and houses more than 32,000 volumes on African art, history and culture. It is open to scholars and the general public by appointment Monday through Friday.
The museum also houses the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, named for the famed Life magazine photographer. Elisofon’s association with the National Museum of African Art began as a founding trustee in 1964. Upon his death in 1973, he donated his African related materials to the museum, including more than 50,000 black-and-white negatives and photographs, 30,000 color slides and 120,000 feet of motion picture film and sound materials. The bequest became the foundation for the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives.
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