The Global Volcanism Program (GVP) seeks better understanding of all volcanoes through documenting their eruptions--small as well as large--during the past 10,000 years. The range of volcanic behavior is great enough, and volcano lifetimes are long enough, that we must integrate observations of contemporary activity with historical and geological records of the recent past in order to prepare wisely for the future. The contemporary focus of the GVP is evident in the central role we play in the rapid dissemination of on-going eruption reports from local observers through our monthly Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network. Our retrospective effort to document Earth's volcanic eruptions of the last 10,000 years has led to development of comprehensive databases and an archive of relevant maps, photos, and documents. Through these two complementary approaches we attempt to provide a context in which any individual volcano's benefits and dangers can be usefully assessed.