I’ve enjoyed textbook-related conversations since those far-off days when African art history had no dedicated textbooks. I was a member of the textbook committee inaugurated by the Arts Council of the African Studies Association, and thankful I was part of the planning group rather than a designated author. Many thanks to Monica Blackmun Visonà, who edited The History of Art in Africa and wrote much of its text, as well as her team of fellow writers, composed of Robin Poynor and Herbert M. Cole. Their efforts to cover the entire continent from the earliest times to the present was a daunting task that they accomplished with grace. A second text, Visual Arts of Africa by Judith Perani and Fred T. Smith, was more selective in its coverage, and its less encyclopedic organization emphasized gender and its relationship to the arts, a very useful approach; my appreciation extends to these authors as well.
Unfortunately, publishing costs have risen. Full-page photos, multiple-angle shots, full-color pictures, and comparative images have become prohibitive. While both former texts are useful, neither is a perfect fit for the way I teach. For the past ten years, I’ve experimented with different approaches to teaching, and I would like to thank my students from my Rewriting the Textbook seminar in Spring 2012 for their creative suggestions and conversations about what an ideal textbook would include. While not all of their ideas can be implemented, we concurred that an interactive textbook is ideal, and this is the result.
Without an institutional shift towards museums and archives allowing Creative Commons usage of their images, as well as the personal generosity of many individual photographers, a book of this type would not be possible. I would particularly like to express appreciation to the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Yale Art Gallery, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Tropenmuseum, the National Archives, UK, the Detroit Institute of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, ArtStor and many other individuals and institutions for making their collections available for non-commercial use.
Finally, my appreciation is extended to the Cleveland State team that helped me prepare and disseminate this book: our library director Glenda A. Thornton, Heather Caprette, Justin Grogan-Meyers, Marsha A. Miles, Barbara Loomis, Christopher E. Rennison, and Barbara Gauthier.