The Historic Maps of Africa collection includes 78 maps and dates from circa 1631 to 1973. Geographic content of individual maps varies from topographical information, boundaries of colonial territories, and ethnic groups, among other topics. While several depict the continent of Africa in its entirety, many focus on specific countries and geographic regions. There are a particularly large number of maps depicting the West African Coast.
Scope and Contents:
The Historic Maps of Africa collection consists of 78 maps, dating from circa 1631 to 1973, with the bulk created in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The maps vary in size, ranging from the smallest at 7 x 7 (7/8) inches to the largest at 40 x 30 (5/8) inches.
Geographic content of individual maps varies from topographical information, boundaries of colonial territories, and ethnic groups, among other topics. While several depict the continent of Africa in its entirety, many focus on specific countries and geographic regions. There are a particularly large number of maps depicting the West African Coast.
The majority of the maps in the collection feature color illustrations. Titles and descriptions of the maps are in several languages (Dutch, English, French, German, and others), representing the different colonial powers in control at the time. Particular maps of interest include an 1830 colored map in English titled "Africa from the Best Authorities," which illustrates the entire African continent, various ethnic groups, and the inroads made by European colonial powers; and a 1656 topographic map in French depicting the west-central coast of Africa, specifically the mountains and rivers of the region.
Digital copies of the maps are available.
The collection is arranged in chronological order.
Use of original records requires an appointment. Contact Archives staff for more details.
Permission to reproduce images from the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives must be obtained in advance. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Historic Maps of Africa collection, EEPA 1991-001, Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for research use.
Technical Access: Viewing film portion of collection requires special appointment; please inquire.
Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use.
American Petroleum Institute Photograph and Film Collection, 1860s-1990 (bulk 1955-1990), Archives Center, National Museum of American History