James J. Ross Archive of African Images 1590 - 1920
A database of published images of African art

Welcome to the James J. Ross Archive of African Images presenting approximately 5000 pictures of African art published before 1921. RAAI is the result of an eight year collaboration between James J. Ross and Susan Vogel, the project's co-directors, assisted by an editor, researchers, a software developer and others. The Archive aspires to include all the figurative African objects in books, periodicals, catalogues, newspapers, and other publications appearing in 1920 and earlier - the oldest dates to 1591. The Archive does not include postcards or pamphlets of limited distribution, and focuses exclusively on figurative art. It is based mainly on the James J. Ross library augmented by publications from the libraries of Yale University and a few other institutions.

RAAI is a collection of rich historical data and images extensively catalogued and annotated. Its historic sources afford exceptional insight into early European and American views - literal and figurative - of Africa's art. Texts are presented here verbatim in the original - often erroneous and sometimes racist - language. Foreign texts appear in English translation followed by the original language. Many images include numerous objects. All individual objects from these "parent" images have been catalogued separately for ease of use and many such objects appear seperately in "sub-images."

Current scholarship appears separately in Comments, Keywords and Collections, making the site informative and easily searchable with contemporary terminology. Images or objects appearing more than once in the database are flagged for comparison. Tools for viewing details in high resolution, for searching by multiple specific variables, and for comparing images side by side are built into the site along with the ability to record user comments.

Using the "Add a Comment" option, we urge informed users to suggest images that we have overlooked and to augment and/or correct the information presented here. As of mid-2010, data from publications on the Kingdom of Benin have not been fully uploaded. Images and data on South African art are just beginning to enter the Archive and therefore may be in particular need of supplementation.

It is the hope of its creators that RAAI remain dynamic and, with the assistance of its users, continue to be enriched and updated.

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