LIS 580 British Studies
Royal Geographical Society and Archives
June 14, 2016
Our host today was Eugene Rae, Principle Librarian. Founded in 1830, the Royal Geographical Society's (RGS) purpose is to advance geographical science. As part of the RGS's aim, they communicate with other geographical societies, disseminate information, and support expeditions. The Society's archives consist of correspondence with other geographical societies, explorers, maps, journals, and items related to expeditions.The collection has over a million maps, half a million photographs, 150 thousand volumes of books and periodicals, and 500 boxes of archival documents. The artifact collection is the smallest subset of the collection, but still holds over a thousand items including cultural objects from around the world, paraphernalia of exploration (e.g. instruments of navigation), and personal items belonging to some of the world's greatest explorers.
Mr. Rae was generous enough to show us some of the treasures from their item collection in the Foyle Reading room. The RGS has been at the center of four epochs of exploration; the search for the Northwest Passage, the exploration of Central Africa, the Antarctic, and Everest. Here are just some of the items that we were able to see:
Northwest Passage items: navigational maps, discarded items from the ill-fated Franklin attempt in 1840's, boots and sun blindness goggles from the Perry expedition.
Central Africa (the search for the origin of the Nile): Stanley and Livingston's Hats, Livingston's compass, Stanley's boots, photographs of Livingston's embalmed body.
Antarctic: chronometer, a magazine printed during the expedition of Scott, Shackleton, and Wilson, a sextant (with ivory parts where it might touch the skin to prevent it from freezing on the skin).
Everest: Mallory's boot and personal effects (found in 1999 after a recovery expedition found his body that was missing since 1924), pictures of the successful 1953 attempt by Hillary and Norgay.
After the RGS Stacie led us on a quest for The Doctor. We found the Tardis!
Book: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (
Movie: In the Heart of the Sea