The Royal Geographical Society was created in 1830. Its aim was to pursue scientific geography. Its manifesto explained that that it was there to exchange of societies across the globe. From here, exploration across the world ensued and the society gained documents and items from various expeditions. Currently, they have over two million items – one million which are maps, 1/2 million are images and 250 thousand are books. Some of the maps are published, while others are hand drawn sketches. The books range from the 15th century to modern day and the periodicals are obtained mostly through exchange. They have 500 active archive boxes that contain both papers and object. Many of their objects are on loan and consist of compasses and other exploration paraphernalia. Many of these items were lent in the 19th century to explorers.
These items focus on where Britain has been active in terms of exploration. The idea was that the objects that people used while exploring the world would be given to the society, and then the society could publish the information in a journal. At the end of the century, the society’s focus shifted and became more academic. The main area of the Royal Geographical Society is the Foyle Reading Room.
The Royal Geographical Society allowed us to view objects from some of Britain’s most famous explorations. We were able to see items from the Northwest Passages explorations from the 19th century such as boots worn by William Parry, wooden eye protectors, a fox collar used to find explorer John Franklin, and even a block of chocolate and a biscuit from the expeditions.
Another famous expedition we learned about was the search for the source of the Nile River in the mid 19th century. We viewed maps of the voyage as well as hats worn by explorers such as Henry Morton Stanley and Dr. Livingstone.
We also viewed items from the late 19th century and early 20th century Antarctic expeditions as well as the 1920’s Mount Everest climb by George Mallory.