Royal Geographical Society

Royal Geographical Society

Royal Geographical Society

It’s hard to believe that today was our last official class visit… it’s also hard to believe that I woke up this morning having my fourth heart episode in nine days. (I’m sure you’re all bored with the heart information, but really I’m keeping track of these episodes for my own benefit).

However, I am ecstatic to say that our class toured the Royal Geographical Society (RGS)! This was not on our initial itinerary for the trip, but Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis did promise us a few surprise visits…

You may remember that the girls and I visited the RGS back on the 3rd to see their photography exhibit, and I am very interested in the society after reading about it in The Lost City of Z. The RGS was founded in 1830, and is a highly specialized body that focuses on advancing the geographical sciences; it is a membership organization, with over 15,000 members and Fellows in 100 countries. Dr. Welsh is actually a Fellow of the Society, and so we were able to have an in-depth tour of some of their collections in the Foyle Reading Room.

RGS’s collections encompass nearly 2 million items, which include artifacts, books, maps, manuscripts, and personal effects from famous explorers whose expeditions were partially or fully funded by the Society. Eugene Rae, the Principal Librarian, created what he called a “Hot and Cold” exhibit, meaning it covered exploration from the deserts of Africa to the Arctic and Antarctica. We were shown the sketches, compass, sextants, and hats of famous African explorers David Livingstone and Henry Stanley, items left behind from Captain Robert Scott’s ill-fated final Antarctic expedition in 1912, and the boot and goggles from Mount Everest explorer George Mallory, who died on the mountain in 1924. We were not allowed to take pictures of these amazing items, but I encourage you to explore their catalogue – type in any of the explorers I mentioned above, limit to Artefacts, and you’ll get a detailed description of the boxes of materials and items RGS has in relation to that person.

Although the Society is essentially a members-only organization, use of the collections and archives is encouraged, though researchers must undergo a registration process. In addition, the Society still issues travel grants for expeditions, fieldwork, student research, and teaching. Lastly, various exhibitions are opened to the public throughout the year at the Society’s facilities, and I have now had the chance to see two: the Environmental Photographer of the Year, and the Travel Photographer of the Year. (Click on the links for pictures) Both exhibits beautifully showcased breathtaking images and films from around the world. Fun Fact: Did you know that actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes have a cousin named Ranulph, who is arguably the world’s most famous modern-day adventurer and explorer? Check him out – his various record-breaking feats are fascinating, and he is speaking at the RGS in September.

The RGS is probably one of my favorite places we’ve visited on this trip, as it’s really unlike any other library, archive, or museum we’ve seen. I am highly interested in exploration, and love reading about historical non-fiction adventures; they’re often so exciting and seemingly unrealistic that they read like a fiction book. But seeing the actual artifacts of explorers solidified the realness of their lives for me, and I appreciate that these men literally sacrificed their lives for their country, their honor, and their often fanatical desire to explore and further the realm of knowledge for mankind. To experience a glimpse of the driving force behind these men, I encourage you all again to read The Lost City of Z, which details the life and mysterious death of explorer Percy Fawcett.

After our final visit, I grabbed a quick lunch from Pret (sadly quite possibly my last ham and egg sandwich here in London), and trekked back to the Wesley Museum to do more research. In true explorer fashion, I had mapped out my route on the Tube, which was quite simple in theory – from the South Kensington Station, which was right down the street from the RGS, I would hop on either the Circle or District line, take that to Monument Station, where I’d then take the Northern line up to Old Street. Easy, right? WRONG. The Circle and District lines are now the bane of existence, and I was incredibly unhappy with London after my tube fiasco today. I did finally make it to the museum, though I could only spent an hour there since they closed at 4. To make myself feel better, I decided to do some shopping, but that too, ended disastrously, so I promptly gave up and treated myself to some Ben’s cookies for dinner. Because, why not? Sometimes a girl just needs a giant cookie and then the world is ok again…

Here’s hoping for a better tomorrow, which I know will happen, because the girls and I are headed to Warner Bros Studios for THE MAKING OF HARRY POTTER! I’ll try to contain my excitement, but can make no promises.

Sleep tight,

Taylor

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