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 500,000 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.
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.
The Stephen Grant Postcard Collection Digitization Project
The Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives (EEPA), National Museum of African Art is pleased to announce The Stephen Grant Postcard Collection Digitization Project, a collaborative cataloguing and digitization project with the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office (DPO). We anticipate making this collection fully accessible to the general public in late 2020 or early 2021.
Collected by donor Stephen Grant, this postcard collection consists of over 7500 historic postcards from Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Senegal produced during the golden era of postcards, c. 1900 – 1920s. The collection features a range of subjects and provides evidence of early photographic processes and printing techniques that allowed the mass circulation of postcards inside and outside Africa. Many postcards carried stamps and hand-written messages sent to friends and family in Europe and the United States. Bearing the names of African photographers and studios long forgotten, these postcards have become key visual resources in excavating the hidden histories of African photography.
The EEPA Historic Postcard Collection consists of over 20,000 postcards from every country and region of Africa. We continue to build this collection with the support of individual donors like Stephen Grant. If you are interested in donating your old postcards of Africa to the National Museum of African Art, please contact us at elisofonarchives.si.edu. Thank you for your support!
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Access to Photographic Archives
Records of the collections of the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives are accessible online through the Collections Search Center.
Permissions to Reproduce
For high resolution digital images and permission to reproduce images in publications and exhibitions, please submit the “EEPA Photo Request Form” (BELOW) with complete contact information here
Prepayment is required on all photo services. Please allow 6 – 8 weeks for image delivery and permission agreement after payment has been received. We accept major credit cards (MC/VISA/AX) via PayPal with authorized invoice or checks made payable to the National Museum of African Art.
Fees for digital images and reproduction rights are included in the EEPA Price Sheet (BELOW) and will be invoiced within 1-2 weeks upon receipt of EEPA Photo Request form. All requests are subject to museum approval, donor-imposed restrictions, Smithsonian polices and copyright laws.
Applicants may request a waiver or reduction of fees for reproduction of an image in a scholarly publication, defined as a publication that reproduces an image for an educational purpose and is directed to an educational or professional audience with a limited print run not to exceed 5,000 copies. The request for waiver or educational discount should be submitted in writing with the EEPA Photo Request Form. Approval is at the discretion of the National Museum of African Art.
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.EEPA Photo Request Form - External
EEPA Photo Request Form EEPA Price Sheet
EEPA Price Sheet
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
Women Photographers in Africa, 1930s-1970s
Women Photographers in Africa, 1930s-1970s
We are excited to announce a major project the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, is starting: In support of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, we will be digitizing and describing 14 collections created by women photographers in Africa! All of the women photographers were trailblazers in their respective fields and professions – art, anthropology, architecture, art history, geography, photojournalism, travel – and used photography as a tool for documentation, ethnographic field research, or ‘salvage photography’ to produce fleeting glimpses of what were perceived as rapidly ‘vanishing’ cultures and ways of life. These women exercised different cultural and social sensitivities when it came to photographing indigenous peoples in local and domestic settings.
Learn more about the project at SI.com
New story! Part six: Women Photographers in Africa:
6. Marli Shamir