The Terra Foundation Fellowship in American Photography welcomes outstanding candidates to submit proposals for research into American photography in the Rijksmuseum collection.

We welcome international, independent research proposals which open new perspectives on the Rijksmuseum’s collection, its history and activities. The purpose of the Fellowship Programme is to encourage and support scholarly investigation, and to contribute to academic discourses while strengthening bonds between the museum and universities. The programme enables highly talented candidates to base part of their research at the Rijksmuseum, and offers access to the museum’s expertise, collections, library and laboratories. Furthermore, it facilitates opportunities for Fellows to engage in workshops and excursions to encourage exchange of knowledge - both amongst themselves and the broader museum audience.

The Terra Foundation Fellowship in American Photography

The Terra Foundation for American Art offers early career scholars the opportunity to conduct photo-historical research into American photography in the Rijksmuseum collection. Since 2005, it has been the Rijksmuseum’s photography acquisition policy to predominantly collect American photographs. This has naturally prompted the desire to make the Rijksmuseum’s collection of American photographs more accessible and widely known.

Currently, the team of Photography Curators of the Rijksmuseum is preparing a major exhibition of its collection of American photographs—from the birth of the medium in 1839 to the present—in a wider context. A number of important themes has been selected as a foundation for the exhibition: American landscapes, portraits, the private use of photographs, the application of photography in advertisement, fashion, politics, (decorative) utensils, and a number of social themes – from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement and from poverty to the experience of wars in the Homeland, as well as the relation of photography to modern art (especially after World War II).

Candidates are invited to submit a research proposal that links to the themes that were chosen for the upcoming exhibition. This could be an in-depth study of one photograph or photo book and its distribution; on a series of photographs or part of an oeuvre; on the aesthetic or technical aspects of photography; on the wider context of a photo book or album; or on combinations of art-historical research and research on materials and techniques.

Terra Foundation Fellows are encouraged to reach out to the international network of experts and scholars outside the museum, with the aim of activating, broadening and strengthening it. Part of the Fellowship will therefore be an international Study Day at the Rijksmuseum, to which the Fellow will actively contribute. The Fellowship will preferably result in a publication, the content and form of which will be decided by the Fellow and his/her academic supervisors in consultation with the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum will provide joint working space for the Fellows and access will be given to all relevant resources in the museum, such as the Research Library Collections, collection documentation and the Rijksmuseum’s archives.


  • The Terra Foundation Fellowship is open to PhD students and post-doctoral candidates specialised in American photography. PhD Fellows are those applicants whose proposal is embedded in the research plans of their forthcoming PhD dissertation, postdoctoral Fellows must have completed their dissertation and obtained their PhD degree on the date of application.
  • Fellowships are open to candidates of all nationalities.
  • Candidates should have proven research capabilities, academic credentials and excellent command of the English language – both written and spoken. Proficiency in a second language (ideally Dutch or German) is preferred but not required.


Fellowship stipends are awarded to help support a Fellow’s study and research efforts during the tenure of their appointment. The stipend of €39,000 for PhD Fellows or €45,000 for postdoctoral Fellows (subject to taxes and deductions) is for a period of twelve months commencing 1 September 2021, the start of the academic year.

The Fellowship will allow for limited travel for research in art collections and archives elsewhere in Europe to a maximum value of €5,000 annually. The Rijksmuseum will cover visa fees for the Fellow, but not for dependents.

Application and procedure

It is still to be decided if there will be a Terra fellow in 2022 – 2023. This will be communicated on this page soon.

The Rijksmuseum belongs to everyone. That is why we are committed to actively promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. People with diverse backgrounds and experiences bring different perspectives to our collection and activities. This leads to new insights and enhances the museum’s innovative strength. We therefore warmly invite you to apply, regardless of your social or cultural background, sexual preference, gender, age or disability.

Further information

Coordinator of Academic Programmes

Made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art