From the ground up: National Geographic Museum reopens with two exciting new exhibits – Fredericksburg.com


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‘Once Upon a Climb: Stories from Everest’ offers gripping narratives of climbers, mapmakers and scientists.
‘Once Upon a Climb: Stories from Everest,’ which is on display through May 1, features interactive media, along with photographs and film footage.
During an expedition in 2019, meteorology team co-leads Tom Matthews (left) and Baker Perry work on a weather station on the Khumbu Glacier, Nepal.
Paul Nicklen captured this image in 2011 in the Ross Sea in Antarctica. The photographer was working on a National Geographic story about emperor penguins.
Michael Nichols set out to illuminate the lives that lions lead, wanting the world to see them in a new way. This image was taken at Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, in 2011.
Thomas P. Peschak used a wide-angle lens to take this photo of an attention-seeking whale in the San Ignacio Lagoon, Mexico, in 2015.
Photo by Mark Fisher, National Geographic Scenic view of Lhotse. Mount Everest, Nepal.
After two years, National Geographic Museum reopened to visitors last month with two exciting shows: “Once Upon a Climb: Stories From Everest” and “The Greatest Wildlife Photographs.”
Mount Everest, a place of spellbinding beauty, is daunting to summit. Newsreels, memoirs and movies record those who were lost in attempts and those who finally succeeded at the extraordinary feat to reach over 29,000 feet into the sky in some of the most extreme conditions on Earth.
But an exhibit at National Geographic Museum doesn’t just tell the exotic world of exploration through photography. It shows what it is like and how these intrepid explorers and photographers did it.
Entering “Once Upon a Climb: Stories of Everest” through life-size videos of scenes of explorers from the bottom to the top of the peak, I heard wind blowing and saw snowdrifts. A helicopter flew directly above me, and then I saw a climber next to me breathing heavily from the exertion of climbing at such high altitudes.
From this multimedia entry of what it might be like to be there, there are galleries on the geography of the mountain with maps and devices used for the expedition when attempted from several different locations. Cases of clothing worn and equipment carried show how the expeditions adapted over time. Highlighted are the cultures of the people who reside there along with the histories of the early climbers. There are mystery stories of those who disappeared along with the latest statistics, such as over 8,000 climbers have reached the top.
Views of the snow-covered peaks seem so untouched, but a photograph from above the encampments of cluttered yellow, green and orange tents made me think about the litter that is left behind.
Of the many reasons to climb Everest, besides the sheer wonder of such an adventure, is that the explorers help modern-day scientists gauge climate change and its impact on our planet. Climbers, mapmakers and scientists who know the peak best share their first-person stories through multi-screen projections.
More down to earth is “The Greatest Wildlife Photographs,” with a selection of nearly 70 images showcasing some of the very best from National Geographic magazine.
Photography has evolved starting with the very first nighttime wildlife image of a white-tailed deer taken in 1900 by George Shiras, dubbed “Grandfather Flash,” who pioneered the use of trip-wire camera traps and night photography. Today’s photographers use camera traps triggered by infrared sensors to produce close-up images of animals in unguarded moments.
Want to know how that works? The exhibit employs the same technology to capture and display images of its visitors as they walk through.
While animals in their natural habitat in the wild are beautiful to watch, it takes time—maybe 16 hours a day—day after day of patience and observation, to capture these precise precious seconds of stillness. In a short video, “Flying Penguins,” photographer Paul Nicklen at the Ross Sea, Antarctica, tells how he worked watching in amazement at how the penguins flop out of ice holes. This real-life show is more delightful than any animated cartoon.
Midway through the exhibit is a screening room to sit and view in large-than-life the variety of animals on Earth.
Nature is not only wondrous, it is complex and varied. A young leopard caught in a treetop might look adorable, while Galapagos marine iguanas seem like fierce prehistoric monsters. “Birds at a Waterhole,” photographed by Charles Hamilton James in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, looked like it had been choreographed for a Broadway show, while photographs of animals amid carcasses look like scenes from gruesome horror movies.
At the exit of the exhibit and well summarizing the variety in nature presented through video technology is a work from Stephen Wilkes’s series “Day to Night.” In 30 continuous hours, 18 feet above a watering hole in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Wilkes captured these discordant animals, from dawn to dusk as they come to their shared watering hole. What paintings with themes like “Noah’s Ark” or like “The Peaceable Kingdom” suggest, National Geographic photographers capture this beauty in stunning real life.
The two exhibits seem to be very different. What they share is what a visit to National Geographic Museum is itself—the experiences of beauty and wonder in the exploration of our natural world.
“Once Upon a Climb: Stories of Everest” and “The Greatest Wildlife Photographs,” National Geographic Headquarters, 1145 17th St. NW, Washington, D.C. On display through May 1. Open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Purchase tickets at nationalgeographic.org/society/visit-our-museum.
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‘Once Upon a Climb: Stories from Everest’ offers gripping narratives of climbers, mapmakers and scientists.
‘Once Upon a Climb: Stories from Everest,’ which is on display through May 1, features interactive media, along with photographs and film footage.
During an expedition in 2019, meteorology team co-leads Tom Matthews (left) and Baker Perry work on a weather station on the Khumbu Glacier, Nepal.
Paul Nicklen captured this image in 2011 in the Ross Sea in Antarctica. The photographer was working on a National Geographic story about emperor penguins.
Michael Nichols set out to illuminate the lives that lions lead, wanting the world to see them in a new way. This image was taken at Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, in 2011.
Thomas P. Peschak used a wide-angle lens to take this photo of an attention-seeking whale in the San Ignacio Lagoon, Mexico, in 2015.
Photo by Mark Fisher, National Geographic Scenic view of Lhotse. Mount Everest, Nepal.
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