A consortium of four foundations — the Andrew W. Mellon, Ford, and MacArthur foundations and the J. Paul Getty Trust — has announced the acquisition of an historic African-American photographic archive, pending court approval and the closing of the sale.
Acquired for $30 million as part of an auction of the assets of Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, the archive includes more than four million prints and negatives and is considered to be the most significant collection of photographs cataloguing African-American life in the twentieth century. The consortium will donate the archive to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Getty Research Institute, and other institutions to ensure broad access for the general public as well as its use by scholars, researchers, journalists, and others.
"This archive is a national treasure and one of tremendous importance to the telling of black history in America," said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. "We felt it was imperative to preserve these images, to give them the exposure they deserve, and make them readily available to the public."
"It's a privilege for the Getty Research Institute to participate in making the archive accessible to scholars everywhere and to have the opportunity to work with other institutions, particularly the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, to secure and share this central American narrative," said Mary Miller, director of the Getty Research Institute, which houses one of the largest public libraries of art archives in the world. “Perhaps the greatest archive of African-American life and culture, the Johnson Publishing archive is a unique resource for the interdisciplinary work that grows from visual inquiry at the heart of research at GRI."