Teachers and their students may explore the Museum’s exhibitions either with a Museum guide or independently.
Appointments are required of all school groups visiting the Museum.
Tours are based on objects and themes reflected in the museum’s collections and exhibitions.
Maximum 40 participants per docent
Discover the National Museum of African Art with us! Bring your students to tour one of our exciting exhibitions and learn about the museum’s unique architecture—the museum is 96% underground! Examine objects and ideas through a variety of age-appropriate activities. Our guides use imaginative strategies to help students learn focused looking and tailor tours to the needs of specific themes, grades, and ages. Touchable objects available upon request.
The Looking Lab
Maximum 40 participants per docent
All artists use visual tools to communicate—visit the museum and discover how to decode and understand any work of art! Students will learn the 7 elements of art, the essential units needed to become art experts, through closely examining objects and ideas with a variety of age-appropriate activities. Docents use imaginative strategies to help students learn focused-looking, and will tailor all tours to your needs in terms of themes and grade- and age-level. Touchable objects available upon request.
Adult and Group Tours
Most days at 10:30 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. For a complete schedule of available drop-in tours, please visit here.
Thematic tours can also be requested for specific visiting groups. If you plan on organizing a tour for your group, please submit your request at least 3 weeks in advance using the online form here.
Go on an impromptu tour with one our docents! These tours feature some of the museum’s highlights and masterworks, and their thematic focuses yield lively exchanges about African art, history, and culture. Visitors will roam the galleries with a knowledgeable docent that is ready to discuss or answer questions about current exhibitions. As well as being held on most days for drop-in visitors, tours can also be pre-arranged for your school or community group. See link above to request a thematic tour.
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa’s Arts
Tour the National Museum of African Art’s permanent collection. Featuring over 300 works of art, Visionary is the museum’s first exhibition to offer broad thematic connections between works from across the spectrum of times, places, and media represented in the museum’s holdings. All tours are subject to docent availability, and last-minute cancellations may occur. Tours meet at the Information Desk in the pavilion on the ground floor. Please ask the volunteer at the Information Desk about availability of additional tours.
African Arts Highlights
Go on an impromptu tour with one our docents. African Art’s Highlight tours yield lively exchanges about African art, history, and culture. Visitors will roam the galleries with a knowledgeable docent that is ready to discuss or answer questions about current exhibitions.
I AM Africa
Visitors are invited to take a journey through the galleries while considering what a work of art can tell us about a person or community in Africa. You will be introduced to a range of people—from youth to elders, hunters to farmers, judges to kings.
Artful Care: Africa’s Healing Arts
Featuring pieces throughout the museum’s galleries, visitors will discover how works of diverse materials and expressive styles might contain medicines, draw upon the power of the divine, or address such global health issues as the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Currents: Water in African Art
Water is one of the most potent forces on earth. Its currents flow through myths, metaphors, and rituals. Diverse and wide-ranging in material, time period, style, and intended use, the objects that you will see on this tour span the continent of Africa. Join us as we explore the importance of water for both practical and artistic purposes.
Building Community, The Roles of Men and Women
Docent-led Tour (Building Community: The Roles of Men and Women) Embark on a unique tour spotlighting depictions of men and women and learn how these portrayals reflected the roles of individuals within their communities. Viewing African art through the lens of gender allows us to explore the continent’s varied cultural history, raise questions, and discuss issues that transcend time and place.
Museum representatives also travel to classrooms, community groups or senior centers to introduce audiences to African art.
African Art On the Go!
About the Program
Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–4 p.m. by arrangement
45 minutes–1 hour
Please submit your request at least 3 weeks in advance using the online form at africa.si.edu/education/go.
Museum representatives travel to classrooms, community groups, or senior centers within a 20-mile radius to introduce audiences to a variety of African arts. A hands-on experience, this is an opportunity to learn about the arts through distinct cultural traditions. If requested, docents can also bring replica works of art to your school classroom or community organization. Some program may require an overhead projector and screen. Additional hands-on activities may vary.
Warren Robbins and the Teaching Collection
Founded by Warren M. Robbins, the National Museum of African Art began as a private educational institution in 1964. Its inaugural vision was to promote cross-cultural understanding through its collections and programs.
Since its inception, access to hands-on teaching materials has been an important tool to supplement the mission of this museum. This collection represents the diverse arts of Africa with more than 1,000 objects, acquired through purchase, gifts from private collectors, former Peace Corps members, former and visiting ambassadors, and de-accessions from the permanent collection. Today, the collection features strong holdings in carved masks; hand-woven, stamped, factory-printed, and dyed textiles; musical instruments; woven baskets alongside weaving implements; currency; stools; headrests; jewelry and adornments; and more.
The teaching collection has aspired to be a unique lending library of objects for use by its curatorial, education, and docent teams. The African Art on the Go! program allows us to share this collection with an ever-broader audience and continue Warren Robbins’s enduring educational vision for the museum.
Please select a program from our listing below.
Daily Life and Personal Adornment
Discover how African art is woven into every aspect of social life and its central role in binding together all members of the community.
Kingdoms of Ancient Africa
Hear about the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms in Africa. By exploring the arts of kingdoms like Mali, Benin, Ghana, and others you will develop an appreciation regarding the heritage left behind.
Threads, Textiles, and Technology
Explore how textile artists from throughout the continent create patterns on textiles using various techniques.
Unmasked: What Do Masks Really Reveal?
Learn about the cultural significance of masks and discover the role they play in rituals, ceremonies, rites of passage, and entertainment in societies throughout Africa.
Making a Reservation
- You must submit your request at least 3 weeks in advance using the online form.
- Pre-registration is required for all African Art on the Go! programs. You are not registered until you receive a confirmation of your request from the museum.
- Submitting a form does not guarantee a reservation. Programs are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. (Please note that our programs are especially popular during February, Black History Month.)
- Programs are available 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, year-round.
- Programs are 45 minutes to 1 hour long, and include an interactive discussion featuring images of artworks found in the museum’s collections and a hands-on art activity.
- Any cancellations must be made by email no less than one week prior to your scheduled program.
- All outreach programs are FREE of charge.
- Your group must have a minimum of 15 people and a maximum of 30 people per program.
- Choose an African Art on the Go! theme and day that works best for your group.
- Fill out the online form at https://africa.si.edu/education/go/ at least 3 weeks in advance.
- If you are unable to submit the form online, print and fax the form to 202.357.4879 ATTN: Sonia Zambe.