Monday, August 30, 2010

Royal Geographical Society

When Dr. Welsh announced an optional trip to the Royal Geographical Society I nearly wept with joy. My dream is to work at a place like the RGS. It combines my love of history and archives with my love of maps. Maps and I go way back. I collect them to an extent, I ask for an updated road atlas every Christmas, I own three globes with my eye on several more. At any rate, I was excited.

Eugene Rae was our guide and he was excellent. I really appreciated that he took the time to sit down with all of us after the tour and answer questions. The Society was founded out of the Raleigh Travels Club and used to be located at Saville Row. They moved into their current space in the 1870s and have been expanding since. The lecture theater is beautiful and host to people like Michael Palin (the Society's president and David Attenborough! Of Planet Earth!)

The RGS' large claim to fame is their endorsement of Livingstone's 1867 trip to Africa to locate the source of the Nile. While Henry Morgan Stanley actually found it, Livingstone remains one of those mythical explorers people romanticize. They also funded/supported expeditions to reach the peak of Mt. Everest. There is a really amazing scale model of Everest in one of the old reading rooms.

The library at the RGS is largely used by members of the society but it is open to anyone who has a need for the sources they hold. It is lending for only members, however. They have over 2 million items in their possession. Mr. Rae showed us some of the amazing artifacts the RGS has in its possession. Livingstone's hat! Shackelton's helmet! Mallory's boot!

The Royal Geographical Society is definitely in my top 5 visits from the whole month in the UK. I'm thinking of becoming a member just for kicks!


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