Cultural Context of African Colonial Photographs

Content on this site is drawn from a broad range of historical sources including materials that may contain offensive images or language reflecting the nature of European colonialism in Africa. Such materials should be viewed in the context of the time and place in which they were created. The images and text in this site are presented as specific, original artifacts recording the attitudes, perspectives and beliefs of a different era. Northwestern University does not endorse the views expressed in this collection which may contain images and text offensive to some researchers.

Approximately 55 images have been suppressed from the Winterton collection website because of issues related to cultural sensitivity. The descriptive text for these images is accessible in the website using the search function as decribed in Navigating the Winterton Collection. These photographs themselves are accessible to researchers on site in the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies. For further information contact

There are many similarities between the Winterton collection's content and the exhibition In and Out of Focus; Images from Central Africa, 1885-1960, on view at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art from December 6, 2002 until March 16, 2003. The text in the exhibition catalog (In and Out of Focus; Images from Central Africa, 1885-1960 by Christraud M. Geary. Washington, DC: National Museum of African Art, 2002) addresses the issue of cultural context of African colonial photographs. The exhibition website, accessible from the National Museum of African Art's website, includes commentary in four brief and focused categories that relate to the Winterton Collection and questions of cultural context.

These are:

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