Was there ever a time in your life when you saw the yellow spine of a National Geographic magazine and didn’t feel even the slightest curiosity about what was inside its pages? I still remember the anticipation I would feel as a small child waiting for my dad to unwrap a new issue so I could set my eyes on images of places, people, and things that I had never seen before. For me and many others, National Geographic has remained a fascinating life-long resource, shaping and expanding our awareness of the world around us.

While preserving Valley history and culture is a core purpose, the MSV can also (or “also provides”)provide experiences that were once only accessible outside of the region. In 2007 we worked with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service to present In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits. It was the first exhibition not related to the Valley or the collection of MSV benefactor Julian Wood Glass Jr. to be displayed at the MSV since its 2005 opening.

The name recognition of National Geographic and famous photographs like Steve McCurry’s “Afghan girl” made the exhibition an irresistible draw to thousands of visitors, demonstrating our potential to reach broader audiences.

That display of pictures from National Geographic helped the MSV create a formula for exhibitions that continues today.  We learned that providing a variety of exhibition styles and subjects is the best way to serve our community and enrich the cultural life of the region.  This idea continues to resonate as the Museum’s exhibitions program has grown to include  artist initiatives, outdoor exhibitions, and installations on the Trails.

The twenty-first century presents many new challenges for us all, particularly as we reconcile the monolithic and meteoric successes and failures of the previous century. National Geographic covers that too. Nearly 15 years after portraits from National Geographic were on display at the MSV, powerful images from the iconic organization are again the focus of an MSV exhibition.

National Geographic Photo Ark brings visitors face to face with animals—many endangered or facing extinction—in the hopes of inspiring us to care about these animals for future generations. The exhibition presents the work of photographer and National Geographic Explorer Joel Sartore, who has devoted 25 years to documenting every species living in the world’s zoos and wildlife sanctuaries.

National Geographic helped the MSV chart a successful course for its future, and through its Photo Ark project, National Geographic is asking us to consider the future of the world’s wildlife. According to Sartore, “It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity… . When we save species, we’re actually saving ourselves.”  See Photo Ark at the MSV. It’s here until February 13, 2022.