National Geographic: Greatest Photographs of the American West

By Judy Brotton


Beginning October 27 in ten museums simultaneously across the nation, The Museums West Consortium will open exhibits of powerful images from the National Geographic Image Collection “Capturing 125 Years of Majesty, Spirit and Adventure.” The exhibit will run through January 6, 2013 and will include nearly 75 photographs, some rarely or never before published. Two of the exhibits will open in Oklahoma – at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City and Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum.


Photo by Jim Richardson
Nebraska, 2004 | A pair of workers halts haying in the sand hills to watch with concern and awe
as rolling thunderheads fill the afternoon sky.

A companion book will be available for purchase in October at all participating museums. Containing 175 stunning photographs, the book depicts the cowboy culture and wide-open spaces west of the Mississippi, by such renowned photographers as Sam Abell, William Albert Allard, Annie Griffiths and Joel Sartore. Divided into four sections, the “Legends” begin with some of the earliest images of the West from the 1890s, at the beginning of the National Geographic Society’s photography. The book then goes on to document the “Encounters” of the many people who migrated through the territory – settlers, outlaws, natives and pioneers. The landscape and “Boundaries” fill another chapter, while the final chapter, “Visions,” focuses on the preservation of the American West and areas still to be discovered.


Along with the two museums in Oklahoma, exhibiting museums include one each in Georgia, Indiana, Washington, D.C., New York, Montana and Texas, and two in Wyoming.


Photo by William Albert Allard
Buckaroo Stan Kendall alone in Mountain City, Nevada.

“Greatest Photographs of the American West” relates details behind the photographs and the photographers who obtained them, anecdotal stories about such figures as Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir, John Wesley Powell, a founding member of the National Geographic Society, William Henry Jackson and many more. Indeed, it confirms the importance of the National Geographic magazine in revealing the American wilderness known as “the West” to armchair travelers back east and those who would never experience it firsthand.

Don’t miss the exhibit and this pictorial history of the American West compiled by the National Geographic Society over the past 125 years. “National Geographic – Greatest Photographs of the American West” will give you all the information about the exhibit, and allow you to relive the Wild West as an armchair traveler.

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