The National Museum of African Art
The mission of the National Museum of African Art (NMAA) in Washington, D.C. is to foster the “discovery and appreciation of the visual arts of Africa.” The museum’s collection, which features items that date back centuries to contemporary art pieces and photographs, demonstrates why Africa is considered the cradle of humanity.
The collection began with the chance purchase of a carving of the Yoruba people by Warren M. Robbins in the early 1960’s growing his collection into the Museum of African Art which opened in 1964.
Robbins went on to be the first director of the renamed National Museum of African Art when congress agreed to have the Smithsonian Institution assume management of the growing collection. The three-level underground museum became part of the Smithsonian in 1979 after more than a decade as a private museum.
In 1987 the museum was moved from several townhouses and garages on Capitol Hill to the National Mall. The main entrance on Independence Avenue is located in the Enid Haupt Garden across from the Smithsonian Institution Castle.
In 2005, its collection grew with the donation of the Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection. Amassed over 40 years by New York real estate developer Paul Tishman and his wife, Ruth, this 500-plus-item collection includes some of the museum’s most rare and extraordinary pieces. These include a 15th Century hunting horn from Sierra Leone decorated with relief carvings of Portuguese coats of arms and a 16th Century armlet carved from a single piece of ivory by the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria.
Learn about current art installations and programs at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art website.
by Katie Calvert