Description of Contents

The Yale University Art Gallery-van Rijn Archive of African Art (YVRA) is a work in progress under the administration of the Department of African Art at the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale University Library. Originally founded by Guy van Rijn in Amsterdam and Brussels, it is now the world's largest photographic digital database of African art. The Archive was purchased for Yale in 2001 and the continuation of the project was funded by James J. Ross. The Archive is accessible online through the centralized Yale digital network. Special access by password is given to knowledgeable persons in the field of African art who agree to act as consultants to the project in contributing to the database or the image bank. The Archive is supported by contributions from donors.

The Yale-van Rijn Archive is the most comprehensive archive of its kind in the field, comprising images of art from Africa in collections worldwide and in situ. It now includes primarily sculpture, from antiquity to the mid-twentieth-century and it will continue to grow as the archivist receives new images. As such it is potentially infinite. There are now approximately 180,000 images of African art drawn from private and museum collections, dealers, general archives, and the existing body of literature including books, articles, notices, and auction catalogues. The database may be searched by country, cultural group, object type, and many other fields enabling the user to do a specific search. The YVRA may be used for research purposes only. In making these images and their related documentation available to researchers, YUAG’s Department of African Art provides an unparalleled resource for the study of African arts.

This Archive of African art focuses on art made in Africa south of the Sahara, including works in collections and in situ to the present, that is, within the traditions dating to the mid-twentieth century and earlier -- what is commonly called "traditional African art." It also includes more transitional work as well as later work in older traditions to the present day, meant for African audiences. It does not include the vast new world of contemporary art by artists from Africa (either in Africa or abroad) who address an international audience, and consider themselves part of the global art market. Nevertheless, the boundaries drawn by the Yale-van Rijn archive are not fixed or rigid. The Archive also includes people in the field of African art (collectors, dealers, scholars, African artists), maps of Africa indicating cultural and linguistic areas drawn from the available literature, and bibliographies for cultural groups and object types.

Contents of the YVRA include: Not included in the YVRA:

The archivist solicits images from collectors of photographs and/or objects who would like to include their collections in the Archive. It should be noted that Yale makes no claims to authenticity of the objects illustrated (by any definition of the term "authentic," and the inclusion or exclusion of an image is at the sole discretion of Yale.

The Archive will also include opinions (including those concerning authenticity) in the Archive database submitted by third parties, at Yale's discretion. We expect that this will provide a forum that will be useful to all researchers. In this working phase, we ask visiting researchers using the Archive to exchange their own images and expertise from their fields of study in order to enlarge and refine the Archive and database for future users.

Please note that Yale University does not control rights and reproductions for the photographs in YVRA. Persons seeking permission to publish or otherwise reproduce an image should contact the photo source.

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