The collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) contains nearly 12,000 of the finest examples of art from across the African continent in a wide range of mediums, spanning from 13th-century ceramics to time-based media created in the current moment. The museum is committed to the ongoing conservation, research, and display of this world-famous collection.
The museum’s collection continues to grow through the generosity of art donors and living artists. However, the large number of objects already under our care dictates that we follow strict criteria when determining whether to accept new objects. Factors include collecting and programming priorities, the availability of storage, and long-term preservation costs. Please see our Acquisition Guidelines below.
If you would like to donate a work of traditional or contemporary African art to the museum and you believe that your proposed donation meets our guidelines below, please email the curator of collections at NMAfACurators@si.edu. Introduce yourself and the proposed acquisition, providing complete information on provenance (ownership history) and JPEG images of the works.
Due to the exceptional volume of submissions the museum receives, we are unable to respond individually to every inquiry. If you do not receive a response within 90 days, this is an indication that the museum has declined to pursue your proposal.
NMAfA does not accept unsolicited donations of artwork through the mail or in person. Any unsolicited objects received will be considered abandoned, and the museum reserves the right to dispose of such property as it sees fit.
- NMAfA observes the highest legal and ethical standards in the acquisition of collections. The museum will exercise due diligence in the acquisition of collections, including making reasonable inquiries into the provenance of the object(s) under consideration for acquisition to determine whether the museum can acquire valid title to the object(s) and whether the acquisition will conform to all ethical standards, both legal and professional.
- The object(s) must be consistent with and relevant to the stated mission, purpose, scope, and activities of the museum. The following criteria are used in determining whether an object should be considered for acquisition:
- its aesthetic importance;
- its relevance to the collection;
- whether it fills a gap in or builds on a strength of the collection;
- its potential use for research, exhibition, or educational purposes; and
- the condition of the work such that it can properly be preserved.
- Primary consideration will be given to the museum’s ability to provide proper care and storage for any artifact. No object(s) will be considered for acquisition if future care and preservation needs exceed the museum’s resources. Donations that also include financial support for long-term storage and preservation are strongly encouraged.
- Donors must have clear title to the object(s), and provide verifiable record of authenticity and provenance for all proposed donations.
- All acquisitions should be outright, unconditional, and irrevocable upon transfer to the museum. The museum cannot guarantee that objects donated will be placed on exhibition or that they will be exhibited or stored intact as a single collection.
- Federal law prevents the museum from providing tax advice or appraisal values for donated items. Donors are responsible for appraisals of value. For more information, please visit the IRS’s website.
- Donations are fully tax deductible within IRS guidelines. Please consult your tax advisor for more information.