Plaque, 16th–17th century, Benin Kingdom, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Anna Bing Arnold, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Discover Thousands of Artifacts from the Kingdom of Benin Online

November 15, 2022

Digital Benin, a new online database of 5,246 objects from 131 institutions in 20 countries (including one in LACMA's collection), brings together objects, historical photographs, and documentation material from collections worldwide to provide a long-requested overview of the royal artifacts from Benin Kingdom looted in the late 19th century. The historic objects are an expression of Benin arts, culture, and history, and were originally used to depict historical events, communicate, worship, and perform rituals. 

Courtesy of Digital Benin

The digital platform, hosted by Museum am Rothenbaum – Kulturen und Künste der Welt in Hamburg, Germany, introduces new scholarship that connects digital documentation about the translocated objects to oral histories, research, historical context, a foundational Edo-language catalogue, provenance, a map of the Benin Kingdom, and museum collections worldwide.

Oral history interview with Monday Aigbe and Ewaen Aigbe in Benin City, 2022, © Osaisonor Godfrey Ekhator-Obogie, courtest of Digital Benin

Digital Benin’s scope focuses on objects looted by British forces from the Kingdom of Benin (now Edo State, Nigeria) in February 1897 and distributed in its immediate aftermath. Together, these events and processes led to the worldwide translocation of the objects shown on this platform. A small set of objects is included in the catalogue to represent the broader context in which the artistic production of Benin guilds is situated: Bini-Portuguese Ivories, produced and circulated outside West Africa in the 16th century, objects produced in neighboring regions of the kingdom, and a selection of works produced by named artists after 1930, which are held in museum collections.

The object in LACMA's collection is this 17th-century plaque. You can discover it and the thousands of other objects online on Digital Benin.