As part of the celebration of their 125th year, National Geographic recently launched a Tumblr blog that unearths “lost” photographs from the Yellow Monster’s image archive, which is said to include more the 10.5 million images.
Called “Found,” the vintage-photography blog was quietly introduced a couple of weeks ago, and has built an audience rather quickly. As of last week, Found had more than 13,000 followers, according to National Geographic Digital Creative Director Jody Sugrue. Several of the images have been “liked” or shared hundreds—even thousands—of times.
“The response has been incredible,” Sugrue told PDN. “It’s been overwhelming, and I think its encouraging us to tell more stories like this, in this way.” Through Tumblr, “we have access to a community that National Geographic doesn’t normally tap into, which we’re excited about,” Sugrue says.
The earliest image on the site, from 1903, is of Alexander Graham Bell kissing his wife, Mabel, as she stands inside a large kite. Some of the photographs are undated, like a black-and-white photograph of a woman feeding a pet bear, or an autochrome image of a garden of water lilies. Other photographs depict a Scottish Highland cow auction from the 1970s, or sledders in Central Park in 1960. The images were made all over the globe, and many are characterized by beautiful colors characteristic of photographic film.
So far the site has drawn on the “fraction” of the Geographic archive that’s been digitized, but Sugrue says that more of the archive will be scanned with an eye toward sharing those images on Found.
Web Barr, a producer for National Geographic, came up with the idea for the site, and he and assistant photo editor Janna Dotschkal are working with archivist William Bonner on the image selection, which focuses on “exploring a sense of wonder and transporting people to a different place and time,” Dotschkal says.
While there could be some concern about sharing these vintage images on a platform like Tumblr, because it encourages users to “re-blog” content, which can separate images from their source (and proper credit), Sugrue believes publishing the images via Tumblr gives them a new life and potentially creates new demand for remarkable photographs that were all but forgotten.
“We’ve gotten a huge response already [from followers], asking where they can purchase [prints]” and about how to license images, Sugrue says. National Geographic is currently working on a way to make prints of some of the images available for sale, Sugrue adds. More importantly, she says, they see Found as “a gift to our audience.”
“It’s just a lovely way to pay homage to our history as visual storytellers,” she adds.
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