Rare National Geographic photos coming to UO history museum

From rare supercell storm clouds to an underwater sculpture garden in Mexico, many of the world’s most amazing sights are seldom seen by human eyes.

Beginning Friday, May 19, visitors to the Museum of Natural and Cultural History can experience such wonders through the National Geographic exhibition “Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary.”

“'Rarely Seen’ is a great example of National Geographic’s history of sharing places, moments and objects that astonish and inspire,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of exhibitions at National Geographic.

An opening reception and exhibit preview is set for 6-8 p.m. at the museum, 1680 E. 15th Ave. The event is free and open to the public.

Among the 32 large-format photographs going on view are two works by award-winning expedition photographer Stephen Alvarez, who will join the museum’s opening festivities and sign copies of the book “Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary.”  

With National Geographic since 1996, Alvarez has photographed on location around the world — from the highest peaks in the Andes, where he photographed the so-called Ice Maiden mummy, to Krubera in the western Caucasus Mountains, the deepest known cave in the world.

“Like all of the photographers featured in the exhibit, Alvarez’s images help expand our visual knowledge, giving us a small glimpse into a big, fascinating world,” said Ann Craig, the museum’s exhibitions director.

Alvarez is especially interested in rock and cave art, a passion that has taken him from archaeological sites on the coast of South Africa to Paleolithic caves around Europe. During his visit to Oregon, he will join museum archaeologist Dennis Jenkins for a trip to see ancient art at the Paisley Caves, where Jenkins uncovered evidence of one of the earliest human occupations in North America. Jenkins is returning to the caves this month as part of a new study conducted in partnership with scholars from the United Kingdom.  

The day after the opening, Alvarez will give a talk titled “Ancient Art: Exploring and Preserving Humanity’s Oldest Stories,” unraveling the human stories told in rock and cave art around the world. The talk will take begin at 3 p.m., Saturday, May 20, at the museum. The talk is included with regular museum admission and free for UO ID cardholders.

—By Hannah Kruse, Museum of Natural and Cultural History