Agency History, 1973-

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact


  • Elisofon, Eliot
  • Freyer, Bryna 1949-
  • Huete, Dorothy S
  • Reel, Jonathan R
  • Luskey, Judith
  • Jenkins, Anita M
  • Geary, Christraud M
  • Wood, Paul W. Jr
  • Burns, Norah
  • Staples, Amy J. 1958-
  • Simpson, Brad
  • Steinhilber, Haley
  • National Museum of African Art (U.S.)


Agency History


  • This is an agency history. It does not describe actual records. The Smithsonian Institution Archives uses these histories as brief accounts of the origin, development, and functions of an office or administrative unit to set that unit in its historical context. To find information on record holdings, please double-click the highlighted field "Creator/Author", which will open on a brief view of relevant records.
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives and Special Collections Council, Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art,, accessed December 13, 2021
  • As part of the National Museum of African Art, the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives is a research and reference center devoted to collection, preservation, and access of visual materials that encourage and support the study of the arts, cultures and history of Africa. The Archives holds materials that illuminates the history of photography and photographic practices in Africa. Its collections contain over 350,000 items, including historic collections of glass plate negatives, cartes-de-visite, lantern slides, photographic albums, stereographs, postcards, maps and engravings.
  • Eliot Elisofon, for whom the Archives was named, was an internationally known photographer and filmmaker whose enduring visual record of African life from 1947 to 1972 was published in magazines such as "Life" and "National Geographic." As a filmmaker, he worked on film and television projects including the "Black African Heritage Series" (1972), a four-part documentary on African arts and cultures. Elisofon's association with the National Museum of African Art began as a founding trustee in 1964. Upon his death in 1973, Elisofon donated his African materials to the museum, including over 50,000 black and white negatives and photographs, 30,000 color slides, and 120,000 feet of motion picture film and sound materials. The bequest became the foundation for the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives.
  • Since 1973, the Elisofon Archives has grown to include over 180,000 slides and color transparencies and 80,000 black and white negatives and photographs. The holdings are divided into two major categories: art photographs, which show African works of art in the permanent collection of the National Museum of African Art and other museums and galleries; and field photographs, which depict art and life in Africa. The field photographs, comprised of over 200 collections, contain images of African artists, leadership, masquerades, architecture and natural landscapes, and reflect the work of both western and indigenous photographers.
  • Staff of the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives have included Bryna M. Freyer, Research Assistant; Dorothy S. Huete, Archives Technician; Jonathan R. Reel, Archives Assistant; Judith Luskey, Photographic Archivist; Anita M. Jenkins, Assistant Archivist; Christraud M. Geary, Curator of Archives; Paul W. Wood, Jr., Archivist; Norah Burns, Archives Technician; Amy J. Staples, Senior Archivist; Eden Orlove, Photo Archivist; Brad Simpson, Digital Imaging Specialist; and Haley Steinhilber, Digital Archivist.
  • For a history of the larger creating unit, refer to "Forms part of" above.

Repository Loc.

Smithsonian Institution Archives Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520


  • 1973
  • 1973-


  • Art, African
  • Photography
  • Description and travel
  • Architecture
  • Museum archives
  • Society
  • History
  • Africans
  • Social life and customs




Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00437

Full Record

View Full Record