The Anniversary of the National Museum of African Art: A Gift in August

NMAfA Pavilion Viewed from the top of Smithsonian Institution Building

On August 13, 1979 the Museum of African Art (later the National Museum of African Art) became a part of the Smithsonian Institution. It was originally founded in 1964 by Warren M. Robbins, a former American Foreign Service officer, at the Frederick Douglass House in Washington, DC. Robbins served as first director of the museum, which put on exhibitions of traditional African artwork, and developed educational programs to cultivate public insight and appreciation of the cultures and artistic achievements of Africa.

As the keepers of the history of the Smithsonian Institution, the Archives recently completed the processing of the Warren M. Robbins Papers, which contain wonderfully rich materials that document the colorful character that was Robbins, and his enormous passion for Africa, its people, and its art. In honor of Robbins and the National Museum of African Art's anniversary, we present a photo slideshow of the museum's founder.

His gift of the museum and its collections to the Smithsonian, continues to foster the discovery and appreciation of the visual arts of Africa—the cradle of humanity. The museum also houses the Warren M. Robbins Library, a major resource center for the research and study of the visual arts of Africa, containing more than 32,000 volumes on African art, history and culture, and the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives.

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