If you were to dig through National Geographic Society’s archives, it would take you a long time. There are about 12 million objects in the archives, and of those 12 million objects, nearly 8 million of them are images — 35mm slides, glass plate negatives, autochromes, deep-sea and microscopic illustrations, black and white prints, and more. Digging through those images is part of the job for National Geographic’s Senior Archivist, Sara Manco.
In this video — which was produced and directed by Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Fellow, Ari Beser — Manco explains more about the unparalleled archive that is housed by National Geographic. Manco leads the team that takes care of National Geographic Society’s historic collection. Appreciating archives and collections is not new for Manco. Back when she was 14 years old, she picked up her dad’s Minolta camera and nurtured a love for photography and photojournalism. Eventually she focused her career on cultural preservation, which is how she ended up at the National Geographic Society today.
Many of the photographs that Manco looks at have never even been published, Manco says, simply stored away in the archives. However, Manco and her team are currently digitizing many of those images. So far, only about 20 percent of the photography archive has been digitized, and Manco says she and her team have only barely touched the surface of what this entails. Even so, one thing is clear for Manco: Her role as an archivist is to share these photographs — that give us a glimpse of what life was like far before our time — with the public. One question lingers: What are the hidden stories that these photographs will tell her?
“We’re looking for those other stories now. Those other things that we had hidden here, and trying to bring that to the surface. I have a lot of work ahead of me.”
You can follow Ari Beser on Instagram @aribeser.