Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Geographical Society was an fascinating surprise during our class outings. During the morning, we visited the National Art Library and in the afternoon, we all headed to the Royal Geographical Society in a small, but bright building on the corner of the North Pole( explorer) and South Pole(explorer… I’ll explain later…).   The RGS was founded in 1830 and the focus is on world exploration ( with an emphasis on Hot and Cold exploration.)RGS has a self-contained reading room that was renovated back in 2004. The library itself has 2 million items in the collection with one million maps, 250,000 books and periodicals, 500,000 pictures and 15,000 objects, all of which relate to exploration. All items are on-site, but are retrieved by a staff member, while users wait for the item in the reading room. The RGS used a card catalog from 1910-2000, but created an online catalog in 2004. The library is a lending and research library and the beauty of the online catalog is that members can order items ahead of time so that they are available when they arrive. Anyone is free to use the library; there is a ten pound charge for non educational users and non members, however. Students, teachers, and academics can use the collection for free. We were fortunate enough to see a variety of items during a visit: a can of meat from the ship Resolute from 1851, an early type of expedition sunglasses from the 1900s, a book of drawings and writings from Shackleton’s South Pole expedition, diagrams for the great Everest expedition, photos and sketches by Livingston on his expedition, and a pocket sexton owned by Charles Darwin.
Through these items, I learned so much more about the history of exploration of the North and South poles. And, perfectly enough, outside of the RGS, just down to the street corner, you can see two statues—One of Livingstone, and one of Shackleton, each representing their area of exploration
Overall, it was  a great day of learning about “hot and cold” exploration and the men that made it possible for us to know more about our world.

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