ROME.- "Building bridges spanning millennia, continents and civilizations, and reaching human beings who might seem to be inevitably cut off from us because of their different languages, forms of writing, laws, customs and beliefs, only to discover that they are in fact very similar to us, almost like brothers - this is utmost pleasure." These words by writer, photographer, pilgrim-traveller and ethnologist Fosco Maraini approximate my idea of National Geographic more than anything else. For while it is true that the Society has offered millions of people the chance to discover the world in its vastness, I believe that the most significant contribution it has made concerns the opportunity to acquire direct knowledge of all the living creatures of the Earth - starting from its peoples. Through this magazine - one of a kind, actually encompassing a host of different magazines within itself - I have made contact with women, children and elderly people from a range of different places.
I have grown acquainted with histories, cultures and ways of living - and surviving - by reading wonderful reports and gazing at extraordinary photographs.
Many people, if not most, consider NG a photography magazine. It certainly is - but only in part. Every month it also publishes top-notch articles by scholars, researchers and journalists. These have taught me about a range of different natural environments and the life of animals, their specific habitats, their beauty and the difficulties they face - as many are faced with extinction. Through gripping pages I have come to enjoy an ongoing narrative about our planet, which represents the most captivating, most profound side of a periodical that in the age of real-time technological information is still capable of moving and amazing its readers, while stirring their emotions.
With "La Grande Avventura" we are seeking to convey the essence of National Geographic to the highest possible number of people. The exhibition - organized, as always, with the help of the hard-working and creative editorial staff of the magazine - differs from the five previous ones, as it does not consist only of images: this is a historical as well as a photographic exhibition, enabling visitors to embark on a journey which has touched all continents after it began 125 years ago in Washington. By following a clear and simple itinerary (125 photos, exhibit panels, covers from the magazine, television screens, touch-screens), visitors will soon discover why we speak of a "great adventure" with reference to NG. Alongside this is a shorter but nonetheless significant adventure: the fifteen years of the Italian edition of the magazine. What you have in your hands, then, is not so much a catalogue as a history book: through pictures and words it brings into focus crucial moments, important landmarks, and the notable faces of human or animal protagonists. Credit for the work undertaken, however, also goes to the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, which for the sixth time has opened up its charming rooms for a National Geographic cultural event.
There is one further message the exhibition aims to convey: that we are the most intelligent beings on our planet, but not the best. We must be more respectful towards other creatures, since Mother Earth's destiny lies primarily in our hands. We cannot ignore, or feign to ignore, that we are not her masters. Let us bear in mind that the resources we have at our disposal are not inexhaustible. If after the exhibition you will gaze at all living species with different - more empathic and understanding - eyes, it will have accomplished its mission. It will mean that the hope of having a better world is still alive.