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Origins

Collecting Pages

There are more than a few living room cabinets in the world overflowing with back issues of National Geographic: jumbles of stacks, pages yellowing.

Unfortunately we live in a time of “clean lines” (white walls), and “minimalist furniture” (Ikea!), and saving space (we live on top of each other!). So it’s easy to see any collections as clutter. Or any of these overflowing cabinets as dust collectors.

Until you pull apart some of the shiny magazine pages, a few still sticky, and can catch a glimpse of the Andes.

National Geographic has documented natural, environmental and cultural history for over a hundred years. That’s a pretty good track record for a little yellow magazine.

The magazine itself grew out of the National Geographic Society as the group’s official journal (and a prime example of 1800s marketing/membership ideas). What began as a scientific journal for a small group of the American elite grew into something iconic the moment the publication included photography.

Now National Geographic has perfected the art of pictorial journalism the way every parent has perfected the art of disguising broccoli (in mac &cheese/under mashed potatoes). This is photography that can transport you anywhere in the world in such a vibrant way, you may as well learn about it.

Even in times when Americans didn’t travel much past their front door, let alone have television or the internet, National Geographic used their photo-filled pages to inspire. Their visual expeditions around the world, and in the US, inspire exploration, appreciation, or at the very least, curiosity.

National Geographic now has their entire 123-year history available in a digital library, if that floats your computer-bound boat. But I’d say you should go dive into some dusty back stacks, hold those pages in your hands, and see a volcano erupt, or desert trek, or perhaps your next adventure.

Your fellow visual learner,

-KK

10/19/2011
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