George Andrew Reisner
George Andrew Reisner was an American archaeologist of Ancient Egypt and Palestine. George Andrew Reisner was born in Indiana, his parents were Mary Elizabeth Mason. His father’s parents were of German descent, he married Mary Putnam Bronson, with whom he had a daughter called Mary. In 1889, Reisner was head football coach at Purdue University, coaching for one season and compiling a record of 2–1. Upon his studies at Jebel Barkal, in Nubia he found the Nubian kings were not buried in the pyramids but outside of them, he found the skull of a Nubian female, in the collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard. Reisner believed that Kerma was the base of an Egyptian governor and that these Egyptian rulers evolved into the independent monarchs of Kerma, he created a list of Egyptian viceroys of Kush. He found the tomb of Queen Hetepheres I, the mother of King Khufu who built the Great Pyramid at Giza. During this time he explored mastabas. Arthur Merton remarked in 1936 in the aftermath of the Abuwtiyuw discovery that Reisner "enjoys an unrivalled position not only as the outstanding figure in present-day Egyptology, but as a man whose soundness of judgement and extensive general knowledge are conceded."In 1902 permission to excavate the Western cemetery in Giza was granted by Gaston Maspero, director of the Egyptian Antiquities Service.
The area was divided into three sections, chosen by lot. The southern section was given to the Italians under Ernesto Schiaparelli, the northern strip to the Germans under Ludwig Borchardt, the middle section to Andrew Reisner, he met Queen Marie of Romania in Giza. In Egypt, Reisner developed a new archaeological technique which became a standard in the profession, combining the British methods of Petrie, the German methods of Dorpfeld and Koldewey, his own American practicality and his skill for large-scale organization. In 1908, after a decade in Egypt, Reisner headed the Harvard excavation of Samaria. 1897–1899: Classified Egyptology collection of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo 1899–1905: Led the Hearst Expedition of the University of California to explore burial grounds at and around Qift 1905: Edited The Hearst Medical Papyrus 1905–1914: Assistant professor of Egyptology at Harvard University 1907–1909: Directed archaeological survey of Nubia for Egyptian government 1910–1942: Curator of Egyptian collections at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts 1914–1942: Professor of Egyptology at Harvard University 1916: Discovers in Jebel Barkal, in two separate caches, hard stone statues, representing Taharqa and four of his five successors: Tanwetamani, Senkamanisken and Aspelta 1916–1923: Explored pyramids of Meroë, dug out temple at Napata 1931: Wrote Mycerinus 1942: Published final work, A History of the Giza Necropolis Amulets.
Cairo: Impr. de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale. 1907. Early dynastic cemeteries of Naga-ed-Dêr. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs. 1908. The Egyptian conception of immortality. Cambridge: The Riverside Press. 1912. Excavations at Kerma. Cambridge: Peabody Museum of Harvard University. 1923. Harvard excavations at Samaria, 1908-1910. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1924. Mycerinus, the temples of the third pyramid at Giza. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1931. The development of the Egyptian tomb down to the accession of Cheops. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1936. A history of the Giza Necropolis. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1942. Canopics. Cairo: Impr. de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale. 1967. Reisner Biography "Reisner, George Andrew." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2005. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 11 Nov. 2005 <http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9063116>. Merton, Arthur. "George Reisner". The Rotarian. Rotary International. P. 23. ISSN 0035-838X. Retrieved 12 October 2012. Works by George Andrew Reisner at Project Gutenberg Works by or about George Andrew Reisner at Internet Archive
Faience or faïence is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a buff earthenware body, at least when there is no more usual English name for the type concerned. The invention of a white pottery glaze suitable for painted decoration, by the addition of an oxide of tin to the slip of a lead glaze, was a major advance in the history of pottery; the invention seems to have been made in the Middle East before the ninth century. A kiln capable of producing temperatures exceeding 1,000 °C was required to achieve this result, the result of millennia of refined pottery-making traditions; the term is now used for a wide variety of pottery from several parts of the world, including many types of European painted wares produced as cheaper versions of porcelain styles. English uses various other terms for well-known sub-types of faience. Italian tin-glazed earthenware, at least the early forms, is called maiolica in English, Dutch wares are called Delftware, their English equivalents English delftware, leaving "faience" as the normal term in English for French, Spanish, Portuguese wares and those of other countries not mentioned.
The name faience is the French name for Faenza, in the Romagna near Ravenna, where a painted majolica ware on a clean, opaque pure-white ground, was produced for export as early as the fifteenth century. Technically, lead-glazed earthenware, such as the French sixteenth-century Saint-Porchaire ware, does not properly qualify as faience, but the distinction is not maintained. Semi-vitreous stoneware may be glazed like faience. Egyptian faience is not faience, or pottery, at all, but made of a vitreous frit, so closer to glass; the Moors brought the technique of tin-glazed earthenware to Al-Andalus, where the art of lustreware with metallic glazes was perfected. From at least the 14th century, Málaga in Andalusia and Valencia exported these "Hispano-Moresque wares", either directly or via the Balearic Islands to Italy and the rest of Europe; these industies continued under Christian lords. "Majolica" and "maiolica" are garbled versions of "Maiorica", the island of Majorca, a transshipping point for refined tin-glazed earthenwares shipped to Italy from the kingdom of Aragon in Spain at the close of the Middle Ages.
This type of Spanish pottery owed much to its Moorish inheritance. In Italy, locally produced tin-glazed earthenwares, called now called maiolica, initiated in the fourteenth century, reached a peak in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. After about 1600, these lost their appeal to elite customers, the quality of painting declined, with geometric designs and simple shapes replacing the complicated and sophisticated scenes of the best period. Production continues to the present day in many centres, the wares are again called "faience" in English. At some point "faience as a term for pottery from Faenza in northern Italy was a general term used in French, reached English; the first northerners to imitate the tin-glazed earthenwares being imported from Italy were the Dutch. Delftware is a kind of faience, made at potteries round Delft in the Netherlands, characteristically decorated in blue on white, it began in the early sixteenth century on a small scale, imitating Italian maiolica, but from around 1580 it began to imitate the sought-after blue and white Chinese export porcelain, beginning to reach Europe, soon followed by Japanese export porcelain.
From the half of the century the Dutch were manufacturing and exporting large quantities, some in its own recognisably Dutch style, as well as copying East Asian porcelain. There were imitations of Italian istoriato maiolica, painted with figurative subjects, made in France from around 1590 onwards in Lyon and Nevers. "English delftware" produced in Lambeth, at other centres, from the late sixteenth century, provided apothecaries with jars for wet and dry drugs, among a wide range of wares. Large painted dishes were produced for weddings and other special occasions, with crude decoration that appealed to collectors of English folk art. Many of the early potters in London were Flemish. By about 1600, blue-and-white wares were being produced, labelling the contents within decorative borders; the production was superseded in the first half of the eighteenth century with the introduction of cheap creamware. Dutch potters in northern Germany established German centres of faience: the first manufactories in Germany were opened at Hanau and Heusenstamm, soon moved to nearby Frankfurt-am-Main.
In France, centres of faience manufacturing developed from the early eighteenth century led in 1690 by Quimper in Brittany, which today possesses an interesting museum devoted to faience, followed by Rouen and Lunéville. In Switzerland, Zunfthaus zur Meisen near Fraumünster church houses the porcelain and faience collection of the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. By the mid-18th centuries many French factories produced pieces that followed the Rococo styles of the French porcelain factories and hired and trained painters with the skill to produce work of a quality that sometimes approached them; the products of French faience manufactories marked, are identified by the usual methods of ceramic connoisseurship: the character of the body, the character and palette of the glaze, the style of decoration, faïence blanche being left in its undecorated fired white slip. Faïence parlante bears mottoes on decorative labels or banners. Wares for apothecaries, including albarello
Cataracts of the Nile
The Cataracts of the Nile are shallow lengths of the Nile River, between Aswan and Khartoum, where the surface of the water is broken by many small boulders and stones jutting out of the river bed, as well as many rocky islets. In some places, these stretches are punctuated by whitewater, while at others the water flow is smoother, but still shallow. Counted going upstream: In Egypt: The First Cataract cuts through Aswan, its former location was selected for the construction of Aswan Low Dam, the first dam built across the Nile. In Sudan: The Second Cataract is now submerged under Lake Nasser; the Third Cataract at Tombos/Hannek. The Fourth Cataract is in the Manasir Desert, since 2008, is submerged under the reservoir of Merowe Dam; the Fifth Cataract is near the confluence of the Atbarah Rivers. The Sixth Cataract is; the word cataract is a Greek word καταρρέω although the original Greek term was Κατάδουποι. However, none of the Nile's six primary cataracts could be described as waterfalls, given a broader definition, this is the same with many of the minor cataracts.
Geologists indicate that the region of the northern Sudan is tectonically active and this activity has caused the river to take on "youthful" characteristics. The Nubian Swell has diverted the river's course to the west, while keeping its depth shallow and causing the formation of the cataracts; as the river bed is worn down by erosion, the land mass is lifted, keeping parts of the river bed exposed. These distinctive features of the river between Aswan and Khartoum have led to the stretch being referred to as the Cataract Nile, while the downstream portion is referred to as the "Egyptian" Nile; the geological distinction between these two portions of the river is considerable. North of Aswan, the river bed is not rocky, but is instead composed of sediment, far from being a shallow river, it is believed that the bedrock was eroded to be several thousand feet deep; this created a vast canyon, now filled by the sediment, some of which originated from the Mediterranean. For more information, see the Eonile as well as the Messinian salinity crisis.
Despite these characteristics, some of the cataracts which are impassable by boat because of the shallow water have become navigable during the flood season. In ancient times, Upper Egypt extended from south of the Nile Delta to the first cataract, while further upstream, the land was controlled by the ancient Kingdom of Kush that would take over Egypt from 760 to 656 BC. Eratosthenes gave a precise description of the Cataract-Nile: “It has a similar shape to a backwards letter N, it flows northward from Meroë about 2700 stadia turns back to the south and the winter sunset for about 3700 stadia, it reaches the same parallel as the Meroë region and makes its way far into Libya. It makes another turn, flows northward 5300 stadia to the great cataract, curving to the east; the six cataracts of the Nile are depicted extensively by European visitors, notably by Winston Churchill in The River War, where he recounts the exploits of the British trying to return to the Sudan between 1896 and 1898, after they were forced to leave in 1885.
The 1905-1907 Breasted Expeditions to Egypt and the Sudan: A Photographic Study - See related photos listed under index "Nile, Third Cataract". Cataract photos links:First Cataract Second Cataract & [http://www.galenfrysinger.com/sudan.htm Second Third Cataract & Third Cataract & Third Cataract Fifth Cataract
Tell el-Yahudiyeh Ware
Tell el-Yahudiyeh Ware or Tell el-Yahudiya ware is a distinctive ceramic ware of the late Middle Bronze Age / Second Intermediate Period. The ware takes its name from its type site at Tell el-Yahudiyeh in the eastern Nile Delta of ancient Egypt, is found in a large number of Levantine and Cypriot sites, it was first recognised as a distinctive ware by Sir Flinders Petrie during his excavation of the type site. The ware first appears in strata dating to the MBIIA period, reaching the peak of its popularity in the MBIIB-C periods when it is encountered frequently in contemporaneous Canaanite and Delta sites; the last vestigial expressions of this ware die out during the LBI period. Tell el-Yehudiyeh Ware forms a useful diagnostic indicator for the MBIIB-C period especially. In the Nile delta it is considered to mark the presence of the Hyksos invaders. Many ceramicists see the form of the Tell el-Yehudiyeh juglet as being grounded in earlier Canaanite ceramic traditions, able to be traced back to earlier prototypes such as the juglets from Tomb A at Jericho.
The clay used in Tell el-Yehudiyeh Ware is grey or light-brown in colour, with numerous gritty inclusions. Tell el-Yehudiyeh Ware is characterised by its distinctive mode of decoration, applied after slipping and burnishing, created by "pricking" the surface of the vessel with a small sharp object to create a large variety of geometric designs; these designs appear in the form of lines, triangles, squares and - occasionally - circles. Vessels of Tell el-Yehudiyeh Ware have a dark surface, the multiple holes being filled with chalk or lime, the contrasting white material making the surface design more dramatic. Tell el-Yehudiyeh Ware is seen in the form of juglets, but includes a large variety of zoomorphic vessels and some shaped like fruit. Well represented in the Nile Valley up into Nubia, the southern portion of Canaan, the north coast of Canaan, the Phoenician and Syrian coasts and the island of Cyprus. Not presently found in inland Syria. Bietak, Manfred, "Tell el-Jahudiyeh-Keramik", LdÄ VI, pp.335-348.
"Archäologischer Befund und historische Interpretation am Beispiel der Tell el-Yahudiyeh-Ware", in S. Schoske, Akten Des Vierten Internationalen Ägyptologen-Kongresses, Munchen 1985, Band 2, Hamburg: Helmut Buske, pp.7-34. "The Center of Hyksos Rule: Avaris - Tell el-Yahudiya Ware", in Oren, E. The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, pp. 91–96, fig.4.4-4.7. Kaplan, Maureen F; the Origin and Distribution of Tell el-Yehudiyeh Ware, Göteborg: Paul Åström, 1980. Negbi, Ora, "Cypriote Imitations of Tell el-Yahudiyeh Ware from Toumba tou Skourou", AJA 82.2, pp. 137–149. Petrie, W. M. Flinders and Israelite Cities, London: School of Archaeology, University College and Bernard Quaritch, 1906. HTML link + PDF Zevulun, U. "Tell el-Yahudiyeh Juglets from a Potter’s Refuse Pit at Afula", Eretz-Israel 21, pp. 174–190, p.*107
National Museum of Sudan
The National Museum of Sudan or Sudan National Museum, abbreviated SNM, is a double storied building constructed in 1955 and established as a museum in 1971. The building and its surrounding gardens house the largest and most comprehensive Nubian archaeological collection in the world including objects from the Paleolithic through to the Islamic period originating from every site of importance in the Sudan. In particular it houses collections of these periods of the History of Sudan: Paleolithic, Neolithic, A-Group culture, C-Group culture, Kerma Culture, Middle Kingdom of Egypt, New Kingdom of Egypt, Meroë, X-Group culture and medieval Makuria; the museum is located on the El Neel Avenue in Khartoum in Al-Mugran area near the spot where the White and the Blue Niles meet. The objects of the museum are displayed in four areas: The Main Hall on the ground floor The gallery on the first floor The Open Air Museum in the garden The Monumental Alley outside the museum building Key highlights of the collections include: The Taharqo statue.
A 4-meter high granite statue of Pharaoh Taharqo, penultimate Pharaoh of the 25th dynasty, facing the main entrance welcomes the visitors of the museum. The statue was broken by the Egyptians upon sacking Napata in 591 BCE under the reign of Psamtik II buried in a pit by kushite priests and found by George Reisner in 1916. Neolithic black-topped red burnished ram statuettes of the C-Group culture. Funerary artefacts and ceramic art. Stela of the chief of Teh-khet Amenemhat, found at Debeira West Middle Kingdom of Egypt and New Kingdom of Egypt artefacts from the area of the third cataract like Sai, Soleb and Kawa. A bowlegged figurine of the dwarf goddess Beset with a plump body and strange facial features: She has a large flat nose and a wide mouth framed by a lion mane and round lion ears. Uncommon in Egyptian art, Beset is pictured full-faced rather than in profile, she appears grasping an undulating snake in her 3-digit left hand indicating to control hostile forces. She is the protector of new-born children.
The Napata and Meroë periods of the Kingdom of Kush including the 25th dynasty: Funerary material, a granite statue of king Aspelta, the statue of an unknown Meroitic king represented as an archer and artefacts from its most representative sites like Meroe, Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naqa. Wall paintings from the Christian Faras Cathedral dated between the 9th and the 13th century, detached during the UNESCO Salvage Campaign; the catalogue of Greek and Coptic inscriptions, produced by the Christian culture of Nubia, was the scholarly contribution of Adam Lajtar from the Warsaw University in respect of Greek inscriptions and Jacques Van der Vliet of the Leiden University in respect of Coptic inscriptions. The inscriptions contain Nubian funerary epitaphs; the sites of these inscriptions are from Nubian territory in Sudan extending from Faras in the north to Soba in the south. The texts are inscribed on sandstone, marble or terracotta plaques of rectangular shape. In the museum garden are rebuilt some temples and tombs relocated from the submergence area of Lake Nasser.
The Aswan High Dam built across the Nile River in Egypt created a reservoir in the Nubia area, which extended into Sudan's territory threatening to submerge the ancient temples. During the UNESCO Salvage Campaign the following temples and tombs were re-erected in the museum garden according to the same orientation of their original location surrounding an artificial strip of water symbolic of the Nile: Some remains of the temple of Ramses II of Aksha dedicated to Amun and to Ramses II himself. Preserved are a part of the Pylon with the Pharaoh worshipping the dynastic god Amun and some side-elements detailing submitted peoples; the temple of Hatshepsut of Buhen dedicated to Horus. The falcon-headed Horus, the mythical ancestor of all Pharaohs, Hatshepsut appearing as a king, never as a woman; the temple of Kumma dedicated to the god of the Nile cataracts. The tomb of the Nubian prince Djehuti-hotep at Debeira The temple of Semna dedicated to Dedwen and the deified Sesostris III; the sunk reliefs of this temple were carved over a large period.
The granite columns from the Faras Cathedral Fragments of inscriptions of the submerged Nile-areas inserted onto fake rocks including a Nilometer with the name of queen Sobekneferu. At the banks of the water strip two Meroitic frog statues 60 cm in height from Basa representing the water-goddess Heket, as well as Beset the protector of pregnant women and newborn babies. Outside the museum building are set up two granite unfinished colossi from Tabo of the Argo Island. Due to missing inscriptions they cannot be assigned to any person but they have Roman influence; the lane leading from the museum car parking to the exhibition halls is flanked with meroitic statues of 2 rams and 6 dark sandstone men-eating lions. The lions are from the first century BCE, as shown by the two cartouches from king Amanikhabale engraved on the first lion on the right; as well as the frogs the lions represent the warlike lion-god Apedemak. Nubian Archaeological Expeditions
A mummy is a deceased human or an animal whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold low humidity, or lack of air, so that the recovered body does not decay further if kept in cool and dry conditions. Some authorities restrict the use of the term to bodies deliberately embalmed with chemicals, but the use of the word to cover accidentally desiccated bodies goes back to at least 1615 AD. Mummies of humans and animals have been found on every continent, both as a result of natural preservation through unusual conditions, as cultural artifacts. Over one million animal mummies have been found in Egypt. Many of the Egyptian animal mummies are sacred ibis, radiocarbon dating suggests the Egyptian Ibis mummies that have been analyzed were from time frame that falls between 450 and 250 BC. In addition to the well-known mummies of ancient Egypt, deliberate mummification was a feature of several ancient cultures in areas of America and Asia with dry climates.
The Spirit Cave mummies of Fallon, Nevada in North America were dated at more than 9,400 years old. Before this discovery, the oldest known deliberate mummy was a child, one of the Chinchorro mummies found in the Camarones Valley, which dates around 5050 BC; the oldest known mummified human corpse is a severed head dated as 6,000 years old, found in 1936 AD at the site named Inca Cueva No. 4 in South America. The English word mummy is derived from medieval Latin mumia, a borrowing of the medieval Arabic word mūmiya and from a Persian word mūm, which meant an embalmed corpse, as well as the bituminous embalming substance, meant "bitumen"; the Medieval English term "mummy" was defined as "medical preparation of the substance of mummies", rather than the entire corpse, with Richard Hakluyt in 1599 AD complaining that "these dead bodies are the Mummy which the Phisistians and Apothecaries doe against our willes make us to swallow". These substances were defined as mummia; the OED defines a mummy as "the body of a human being or animal embalmed as a preparation for burial", citing sources from 1615 AD onward.
However, Chamber's Cyclopædia and the Victorian zoologist Francis Trevelyan Buckland define a mummy as follows: "A human or animal body desiccated by exposure to sun or air. Applied to the frozen carcase of an animal imbedded in prehistoric snow". Wasps of the genus Aleiodes are known as "mummy wasps" because they wrap their caterpillar prey as "mummies". While interest in the study of mummies dates as far back as Ptolemaic Greece, most structured scientific study began at the beginning of the 20th century. Prior to this, many rediscovered mummies were sold as curiosities or for use in pseudoscientific novelties such as mummia; the first modern scientific examinations of mummies began in 1901, conducted by professors at the English-language Government School of Medicine in Cairo, Egypt. The first X-ray of a mummy came in 1903, when professors Grafton Elliot Smith and Howard Carter used the only X-ray machine in Cairo at the time to examine the mummified body of Thutmose IV. British chemist Alfred Lucas applied chemical analyses to Egyptian mummies during this same period, which returned many results about the types of substances used in embalming.
Lucas made significant contributions to the analysis of Tutankhamun in 1922. Pathological study of mummies saw varying levels of popularity throughout the 20th century. In 1992, the First World Congress on Mummy Studies was held in Puerto de la Cruz on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. More than 300 scientists attended the Congress to share nearly 100 years of collected data on mummies; the information presented at the meeting triggered a new surge of interest in the subject, with one of the major results being integration of biomedical and bioarchaeological information on mummies with existing databases. This was not possible prior to the Congress due to the unique and specialized techniques required to gather such data. In more recent years, CT scanning has become an invaluable tool in the study of mummification by allowing researchers to digitally "unwrap" mummies without risking damage to the body; the level of detail in such scans is so intricate that small linens used in tiny areas such as the nostrils can be digitally reconstructed in 3-D.
Such modelling has been utilized to perform digital autopsies on mummies to determine cause of death and lifestyle, such as in the case of Tutankhamun. Mummies are divided into one of two distinct categories: anthropogenic or spontaneous. Anthropogenic mummies were deliberately created by the living for any number of reasons, the most common being for religious purposes. Spontaneous mummies, such as Ötzi, were created unintentionally due to natural conditions such as dry heat or cold, or anaerobic conditions such as those found in bogs. While most individual mummies belong to one category or the other, there are examples of both types being connected to a single culture, such as those from the ancient Egyptian culture and the Andean cultures of South America; the earliest ancient Egyptian mummies were created due to the environment in which they were buried. In the era prior to 3500 BC, Egyptians buried the dead in pit graves, without regard to social status. Pit graves were shallow; this characteristic allowed for the hot, dry sand of the desert to dehydrate the bodies, leading to natural mummification.
The natural preservation of the dead had a profound effect on ancient Egyptian religion. Deliberate mummification became an integral part of the rituals for the dead beginning as early as the 2nd dynasty
National Museum of African Art
The National Museum of African Art is the Smithsonian Institution's African art museum, located on the National Mall of the United States capital. Its collections include 9,000 works of traditional and contemporary African art from both Sub-Saharan and Arab North Africa, 300,000 photographs, 50,000 library volumes, it was the first institution dedicated to African art in the United States, remains the largest collection. The Washington Post called the museum a mainstay in the international art world and the main venue for contemporary African art in the United States; the museum was founded in 1964 by a Foreign Service officer and layman who bought African art objects in Germany and multiple houses in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in which to display them. The collection focused on traditional African art and an educational mission to teach black cultural heritage. To ensure the museum's longevity, the founder lobbied the national legislature to adopt the museum under the Smithsonian's auspices.
It became the National Museum of African Art two years later. A new underground museum building was completed in 1987, just off the National Mall and adjacent to other Smithsonian museums, it is among the Smithsonian's smallest museums. The African art museum took a scholarly direction over the next twenty years, with less social programming, it collected contemporary works of historical importance. Exhibitions include works both internal and borrowed, have ranged from solo artist to broad, survey shows; the museum hosts ten special events annually. Reviewers criticized the National Mall building's architecture its lack of natural light; the museum is scheduled for remodeling as part of the Smithsonian's upcoming South Mall project. In the 1950s, American Foreign Service officer Warren M. Robbins collected African figures, masks and textiles from German antique shops. Upon returning to Washington, D. C. in 1960, he opened his collection for viewing. Robbins, without museum, arts, or fundraising experience, believed that the collection could advance interracial civil rights and improve national respect for a major component of black cultural heritage.
Starting in 1963, he expanded his Capitol Hill house museum into adjacent townhouses, including the former house of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The collections occupied nine townhouses and over a dozen other properties near the Supreme Court Building; the museum was formally founded in 1964 as the Museum of African Art, its first show consisted of the collection and two outside pieces. Under Robbins's tenure, the museum focused on traditional African art and its educational mission to teach black cultural heritage, it served as a convivial meeting place for individuals interested in American racial politics, in keeping with the 1960s and'70s Black Arts Movement effort to change American perceptions towards African cultures. Robbins referred to his museum as "an education department with a museum attached". By 1976, the African art museum had a 20-person staff, 6,000-object collection, Robbins had visited Africa for the first time. To ensure the museum's longevity, Robbins lobbied the national legislature to absorb his museum into the Smithsonian Institution, a federal group of museums and research centers.
The House of Representatives approved this plan in 1978 with backing from Representatives John Brademas, Lindy Boggs, Ron Dellums, the Congressional Black Caucus, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The Smithsonian directors adopted the museum the next year and began plans to move the collection from the townhouses into a proper museum. In 1981, the museum was renamed the National Museum of African Art. In early 1983, Sylvia Williams became the museum's director; that year, the Smithsonian broke ground on a new, dedicated building for the African art museum on the National Mall. The complex was situated underground, expanded the museum's exhibition space upon its September 1987 opening. Over time, perspectives towards African art shifted from ethnographic interest to the study of traditional objects for their craftsmanship and aesthetic properties. Williams took a scholarly, art historian approach to the museum, pursued risky, high-cost pieces before their ultimate values were settled; the collection expanded into contemporary works and works from Arab North Africa, beyond the traditional Sub-Saharan.
The museum's founder criticized this direction and felt that the institution was neglecting its public role for "esoteric scholarship". Following Williams's death in 1996, curator Roslyn Walker, served as director from 1997 through her 2002 retirement. Walker continued the direction of her predecessor and added a dedicated contemporary art gallery and curator, she created a development office, which raised money for an early 2000s renovation of the museum's pavilion. Sharon Patton, former director of Oberlin College's Allen Memorial Art Museum, served as director between 2003 and 2008, her tenure included more shows targeting children and an advisory board mass resignation over Smithsonian leadership. Johnnetta Cole, an anthropologist and former president of Spelman and Bennett College, became the museum's director in 2009, her tenure became associated with a controversial 2015 exhibit that featured works from comedian Bill Cosby's private collection just as allegations of sexual assault against him became public.
Two years earlier, the 2013 federal budget sequestration closed one of the museum's permanent exhibitions. Cole retired in March 2017 and was succeeded by British filmmaker and curator Gus Casely-Hayford in February 2018; as of the late 2000s, The Washington Post wrote that the museum struggled with low att