The W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research (Harvard University) and Artstor Inc. announced today that they had reached an agreement to collaborate on the distribution through Artstor of approximately 30,000 high quality digital images from the Du Bois Institute’s Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive. Spanning nearly 5,000 years and documenting virtually all artistic media, the Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive is an unprecedented research initiative devoted to the systematic investigation of how people of African descent have been perceived and represented in art.

Started in 1960 by Jean and Dominique de Ménil in reaction to the continuing existence of segregation in the United States, the Archive contains photographs of nearly 30,000 works of art, each one of which is extensively documented by the Archive’s staff. For the first thirty years of the project’s existence, it focused on the production of a prize-winning, four-volume series of generously illustrated books, The Image of the Black in Western Art. Since moving to Harvard University in 1994, the project has focused on production of the final volume of The Image of the Black in Western Art and expanding access to the Archive itself.

This collaboration between Artstor and the Du Bois Institute will make this rich body of visual material and related scholarship available electronically for the first time. The audience for these materials will include not only art historians but also scholars, teachers, and students throughout the humanities and social sciences, who will value having the ability to access, browse, and make rich educational and scholarly uses of this unique corpus of images. In reaching this agreement, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and James Shulman, Executive Director of Artstor, expressed their enthusiasm in collaborating to use digital technologies to make this important scholarly resource more broadly available for noncommercial pedagogical and scholarly purposes. “The Image of the Black Archive has been known too little for too long,” said Professor Gates, the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies, and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University. “We at the Du Bois Institute are delighted to work with Artstor to make this essential archive more widely available to scholars and students in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.” James Shulman adds, “The Image of the Black Archive contains thousands of images that could not be made available in the splendid published volumes devoted to this important subject. This research project embodies an unusually thoughtful approach to interdisciplinary visual research. This collaboration should therefore produce an exceptionally significant resource for scholars, teachers and students in a wide range of fields. Artstor is delighted to be able to play a part in making it available for scholarly and educational purposes.”

The W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research is the nation’s oldest research Institute dedicated to the study of the history, culture, and social institutions of African Americans. Founded in 1975, the Institute serves as the site for research projects, fellowships for emerging and established scholars, publications, conferences, and working groups. Named after the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University (1896), the Institute also sponsors four major lecture series each year, and serves as the co-sponsor for numerous public conferences, lectures, readings, and forums.