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Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives


Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

The Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives is a research and reference center devoted to the collection, preservation and dissemination of visual materials that encourage and support the study of the arts, cultures and history of Africa. The archives collections contain approximately 350,000 items, including rare collections of glass plate negatives, lantern slides, stereographs, postcards, maps and engravings. The Elisofon Archives staff works with art historians, anthropologists, photographers, filmmakers and other specialists in acquiring and preserving these visual resources.

Access to Photographic Archives

Records of the collections of the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives are accessible online through SIRIS, the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System. To search for catalogue records and electronic resources, click on Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives and browse images by countries, subjects, or cultural groups. Over 14,000 images from Eliot Elisofon’s field collection are currently on display on the World Wide Web.

Permissions to Reproduce

All requests for permission to use images must be submitted in writing and are subject to approval. Fees are charged for one-time usage and pre-payment is required on all photographic orders. Checks or money orders should be made out to the National Museum of African Art.

To download, please use the “Download” button at the bottom of the application and follow the links from there. You can also share it across social media or embed the document into your own page in order to make it more accessible.

Alternatively, you may download the pdf directly.

To request images or an invoice for photo services, please fill out a photo order form (Adobe Acrobat PDF) and mail to the P.O. box listed below. Please allow 4 to 6 weeks to process your request once payment has been received. If you would like to request images or schedule an appointment, please contact us.

Image files from the National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) of the Smithsonian Institution (SI) are made available for noncommercial, personal or educational use only. Please read the Rights and Reproductions policy here.


Open by appointment only
Tuesday–Thursday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Contact information

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012 MRC 708
Washington, DC 20013-7012

202.357.4879 (fax)


National Museum of African Art
950 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20560

Highlights from the Eliot Elisofon Collection