In 1909, wealthy French banker Albert Kahn set out to create "a photographic inventory of human life on Earth." His teams took 72,000 autochrome photographs in over 50 countries, comprising the largest collection of early color photography in existence.
Ovation, one of those TV stations in the 200s you might not realize you subscribe to, is currently airing the 9-part BBC series "The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn," which explores the man and details his colossal project. Kahn became interested in photography on a trip to Japan and sent teams equipped with autochrome cameras—the first capable of simply taking true color photographs—to all corners of the world.
In addition to the 72,000 still photos they collected, Kahn's teams amassed over 100 hours of film over the course of the project's 22 year duration. Kahn was eventually bankrupted during the Great Depression, but his collection stands as a singular account of life in the early 20th Century. You can see more of the photos here and many more can be seen in the companion book to the BBC program. [Constant Siege via Kottke]