These 30 timeless Nat Geo pictures take you to a bygone era

Pique your curiosity with these vintage photos from our historic collection.

As I dove deep into our vast—and, at times, challenging—photography archives, I was hit with a wave of urgency and adventure. I wanted to share every single image I could find.

It’s tough to wrap your mind around the sheer scale of the histories, cultures, and adventures documented in National Geographic’s archives. Am I really looking at history’s first underwater photograph? The first nighttime photograph of wildlife? The first expedition to reach the Earth’s stratosphere? My personal favorite find was a rare image of the youngest panda ever photographed in the wild.

Our historic collection of photographs can take you on a journey to another era—or another corner of the planet. While curating pictures for National Geographic's Photo of the Day, I want to ignite and inspire the explorer in each one of us.

As I edited, I realized I wanted to evoke a sense of home. There was Michael “Nick” Nichols’s image of a young refugee boy reuniting with his mother after being displaced in Rwanda. I marveled at Lynsey Addario’s image of Afghan women having a picnic together in a garden. And, of course, there’s nothing sweeter than biting into that first summertime watermelon, like the young boy in the lead photo by James P. Blair.

In these uneasy times, I hope these timeless images give you a short escape into summertime calm.

Breann Birkenbuel is the editor for Photo of the Day. Melody Rowell writes and researches the captions.