British Studies 2014

kimiekelly's Having Fun Abroad album on Photobucket

Royal Geographical Society Library & Archive -Thursday - July 24th

The last visit of our class was to the Royal Geographical Society Library and Archive.  The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) was originally called the Geographical Society of London.  It was founded in 1830 with the intention of promoting the study of geography and mapping areas of the world.  I was surprised to learn that in addition to offering various workshops and exhibits, the RGS still participates in funding expeditions.  

For my book reviews I read The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann.  The book focuses on Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who searched South American for the lost city of El DoradoFrom my readings, I knew that Grann had used the Royal Geographical Society Library to study maps made by Percy Fawcett that are kept there.  For this reason I was eager for our visit there. 
Our speaker was Eugene Rae, Principal Librarian at the RGS.  He led us to the Foyle Reading Room.  Built with money provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the reading room opened in 2004.  The room is neat and modern.  One side is lined with windows that look out into the Exhibition Pavilion.  I can see a large group of visitors outside in the Pavilion looking around the displays for the Travel Photographer of the Year Exhibition.   
We are seated around a large table in the library that holds various artifacts from the collection.  This particular collection is refered to has the "hot and cold showcase" because half of the artifacts belong to expeditions performed in  warm temperature area of the world, while the other are from cold locations.  Eugene proceeds to give us a brief history of each item on the table.  We are shown the Burberry helmet Sir Ernest Shackleton wore on explorations to the Antarctic, the famous hat of Sir Henry Morton Stanley, as well as the cap belonging to explorer David Livingstone.  
Our class at RGS.  Photo courtesy of Dr Teresa Welsh

The RGS Library possesses over 2 million items.  About half of those items are maps, drawn by explorers.  They also have 400 atlases and a huge picture collection.  The library holds over 250,000 books.  Eugene tells us that artifacts are the smallest party of the collection.  Those artifacts fall into 3 categories; scientific instruments, personal effects, and cultural objects.  Our final visit has been an exciting one.  To be this close to items of such significance is quite thrilling.  Eugene must have quite an interesting job.