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.
Since 1973, the archives holdings have grown to include over 180,000 slides and color transparencies and 80,000 black-and-white photographs. In addition to the collection of Eliot Elisofon, major collections include over 5,000 black-and-white photographs taken by Constance Stuart Larrabee in South Africa between 1936 and 1983, over 10,000 slides depicting Yoruba art and culture by Henry Drewal and Margaret Thompson Drewal, and a historical collection of over 13,000 postcards. Special collections include late 19th- and early 20th-century photographic albums with significant anthropological and historical research value.
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 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.
Eliot Elisofon Photographic ArchivesNational Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012 MRC 708
Washington, DC 20013-7012
LocationNational Museum of African Art
950 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20560