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National Geographic to auction select photo collection

A portrait of Admiral Robert Peary on his 1908 North Pole expedition will be auctioned in December.

Christie’s Images Limited

A portrait of Admiral Robert Peary on his 1908 North Pole expedition will be auctioned in December.

NEW YORK — National Geographic Society has chronicled scientific expeditions, explorations, archeology, wildlife, and world cultures for more than 100 years, amassing a collection of 11.5 million photos and original illustrations.

A small selection — 240 pieces spanning from the late 1800s to the present — will be sold at Christie’s in December at an auction expected to bring about $3 million, the first time any of the institution’s collection has been sold.

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Among the items are some of National Geographic’s most indelible photographs, including that of an Afghan girl during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a portrait of Admiral Robert Peary on his 1908 expedition to the North Pole, a roaring lion in South Africa, and the face of a Papua New Guinea aborigine.

Paintings and illustrations include N.C. Wyeth’s historical scene of sword-fighting pirates, Charles Bittinger’s view of Earth as seen from the moon, and Charles Knight’s depictions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.

They are being auctioned ‘‘to celebrate our legacy . . . and to give people a chance to buy a little part of this great institution’s history,’’ said Maura Mulvihill, senior vice president of National Geographic’s image and video archives.

Proceeds from the Dec. 6 auction, just weeks before National Geographic’s 125th anniversary, will go for the promotion and preservation of the archive and ‘‘the nurturing of young photographers, artists and explorers . . . who are the future of the organization,’’ Mulvihill said.

National Geographic sponsors and funds scientific research and exploration through its official journal, National Geographic Magazine, which reaches 8.8 million people.

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