Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

Now that we are back in London, it's time to get back to business! Today we visited the Royal Geographical Society to take a learn about their library and archives and to take a look at some of the gems in their collection.

Let me tell you, was I ever impressed! The librarian, Eugene, was absolutely brimming with geographical knowledge and it was apparent that he is deeply passionate about his field. Not only did he give us the background of the society and the collection they maintain, but he also presented us with some intriguing stories about early exploration, as well as some of the COOLEST things I have seen during this trip.

Here are some highlights:
  • The Royal Geographical Society, originally the Geographical Society of London was founded in 1830 and was granted its Royal Charter in 1859.
  • The society is housed in Lowther Lodge, which was built in the 1870s, and to which the society moved in 1912/13. Originally, all the collections were spread about the house, but are now in one central location in the Foyle Reading Room, which was added just a few years ago.
  • The group was formed in order to 'promote the advancement of geographical science' by collecting geographical knowledge and disseminating it to a wider audience. This was done mainly through the  encouragement of traveling (particularly to Africa, the Arctic, the Antarctic, and central Asia) and collecting data and it was through this data collection that the library was started.
  • The library contains:
    • maps
    • pictures
    • objects/souvenirs
    • personal effects
    • scientific instruments
    • archives
  • The collection is around 2 million items, including 1 million maps, 1/2 million images, 250,000 bound volumes, 1,000 metres of archive materials, and 1,500 objects in special collections.
  • 1/2 of the card catalogue is digitized.
  • Access to the collection is free for students, educators (including library professionals), and members of the society.
  • The last major expedition supported by the society was in 2000.

The hats of Livingstone and Stanley

George Mallory's boot from Mt. Everest- Mallory's body was mummified for 75 years before being discovered in 1999!

Other cool things we saw:
  • Food bags found with the bodies of Captain Scott and his men after their fatal exploration of the South Pole in 1912
  • Shackleton's helmet from 1903- it was Burberry!
  • Can of meat from the 1850s left by the HMS Resolute- the ship in which the wood for the resolute Desk in the White House came from
  • Other artifacts found with Mallory's body on Mt. Everest- wristwatch, fingerless glove, altimeter (did he ever reach the top??), tin of savory meat lozenges

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