Mongolia Observed
A Century of Photographs of Life in Mongolia on view at the American Museum of Natural History

PHOTOGRAPHS PRESENT AND PAST May 6 - September 4, 2000

Observed: Photographs Present and Past, an exhibition of 45 stunning large format color and black-and-white photographs, opened on May 6, 2000, in the Akeley Gallery at the American Museum of Natural History. On view through September 4, the images offer visitors a look at contemporary life in Mongolia as well as a glimpse of Mongolian culture in the early 20th century, providing insight into the tenacity of Mongol Culture and the nomad way of life over the past eighty years.

The 35 contemporary photographs in the exhibition are the result of five separate expeditions to Mongolia conducted since 1994 by writer, photographer, and naturalist Robert McCracken Peck. Dr. Peck, a fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, traveled throughout the country, seeking out families and individuals who are carrying on their cultural traditions.

Dr. Peck's photographs of modern-day Mongolia are contrasted with 10 black-and-white images taken by members of several Museum expeditions to Mongolia led by famed explorer Roy Chapman Andrews in the 1920s. The expedition photographs, chosen from the Museum's archives, document Mongolia at a moment of transition, just before it was absorbed into the Soviet sphere. A decade of research by a Museum team of zoologists, geologists, paleontologists, botanists, herpetologists, ichthyologists, cartographers, and photographers offered major insights into a region that, until then, had only been crudely mapped and never scientifically explored.

Mongolia Observed: Photographs Present and Past, which is curated at the Museum by Laurel Kendall, curator in the Division of Anthropology, and guest-curated by Robert McCracken Peck, sheds light on everyday lives of the people of Mongolia, focusing on three themes important in Mongolian culture: Nomadism, religion, and Naadam, the Mongolian national festival that includes competitions in wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Nomadic life is revealed through striking portraits, photographs of families living in traditional Gers, or large tents, and images of common day-to-day activities. Religious life is portrayed through pictures of Buddhist monks and temples, and shaman rituals still practiced in Mongolia today. Scenes from a Naadam tournament show fierce competitors and spectators enjoying the rich social life that has revolved around Mongolia's most important cultural event, celebrated for centuries.

Through the vivid photographs on view in Mongolia Observed: Photographs Present and Past, Museum visitors will be able to experience what Roy Chapman Andrews and Robert McCracken Peck so carefully recorded.

For More Information

The Museum is open daily:
10:00 a.m.—5:45 p.m.

The Rose Center remains remains open until 8:45 p.m. on the first Friday of every month. The Museum is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.


The Museum and Rose Center will remain open until 7:45 p.m. on Monday, December 26th until Friday, December 30th.

(The Rose Center will remain open until 8:45p.m. on the 30th)

American Museum of Natural History — Photographs © Robert McCracken Peck

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