The National Geographic Society was founded 125 years ago. Its purpose? To expand and share geographic and scientific knowledge through the spirit of exploration. That mission continues to drive National Geographic amidst more than a century of technological and scientific innovations. And for the next year, visitors to the Society’s Museum here in DC can celebrate and enjoy the most iconic moments in the organization’s history.
The exhibition opens with a colorful celebration of the Society’s iconic magazine. The entry arch is constructed entirely of hundreds of past issues in a variety of languages, a fitting tribute to the simple golden square that symbolizes the publication. As visitors walk down a short hallway, they are greeted with a colorful display that shows off the cover of every issue of National Geographic, including placeholders for the future editions to be published during the exhibition’s year-long run.
After a short look at the Society’s founding members—using an interactive portrait—the exhibition opens up to encompass the three areas of the organization’s focus in exploration: land, sea, and sky. The galleries are covered in colorful images that highlight fascinating stories throughout the Society’s history. Science and exploration are the primary focus, including ancient civilizations and cultures, paleontology, wildlife, oceans, and the environment.
Dominating one of the galleries is the Society’s historic globe, measuring eleven feet in circumference. The globe is entirely hand-painted and used to reside in the museum’s main lobby for more than fifty years. Even as borders change today, a long-time museum employee comes in to hand-paint the new information.
The final gallery looks ahead to the future of exploration, showcasing highlights of today’s emerging explorers. There is also a look at the Society’s additional media efforts, including a brief look at its evolution in the realm of television and continuing efforts of educating children in geography. Visitors can leave their mark by offering keywords of what area they believe should be explored further.
The exhibit does have an admission charge of $11 per adult, $9 per member, military, student, and seniors, and $7 per child ages 5-12. The exhibition is part of an organization-wide celebration of its century-and-a-quarter anniversary, which also includes special issues of National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler magazines, assorted television specials, and other media publications such as an app and special edition book.
Exhibitions such as these highlight the intrinsic value that National Geographic provides to all of us. Through their efforts, we have had a window into worlds within this world and discovered much about the planet, our universe, and ourselves. Those windows, outlined by the National Geographic gold border, deserve such a celebration as this.
The National Geographic Museum is located at the corner of 17th and M Streets NW. The Museum is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. For more images, visit my photoset of the exhibit.