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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Royal Geographical Society

Our class met wth Eugene Rae, a librarian at the Royal Geographical Society one afternoon. Mr. Rae was full of interesting information and historical facts. He shared some of his knowledge with us, about particular artifacts, photographs, and items which are part of the Society's collection. Mr. Rae also helped to explain how the library works and the history of the society itself.

Oringally, the Royal Geographical Society was housed in one building, but spread out throughout mulitple rooms. This made accessing the collection, archives, and other documents difficult for both the staff and the patrons. In 2004, the completion of construction on the building, resulted in one large reading room. In here, all the materials can be accessed from one easy and simple location. Moving all the items into one large reading room also created a secure feeling; a contained space helps to ensure items stay inside of the library and are not taken out with patrons.

While some items are kept out in the reading rooms, most of the 2 million items belonging to the society are kept inside of climate control rooms to help with preservation. These items include but are not limited to books, periodicals, pictures, objects and artifacts, and documents. prior to 2004, the online card catalog was not completed. However, since the remodel and rennovation in 2004, the items and records have been fully cataloged and are available online. Mr. Rae explained to our class that a list of all the items was made, multiple photocopies were created and then sent to India, where individuals there input the information onto an online database.

Admission to the Royal Geographical Society is free to memebers, non-members must pay a £10 fee; anyone who is not a member is allowed to use the resources inside as long as they pay the daily fee. Certain exceptions are made for non-members who are using the library as a resource for educational reasons.  The Royal Geographical Society is only a lending library to its members. While non-members are allowed to come in and use the resources, they are not allowed to take any books home.

While on our visit, our guide explained many objects and documents on display inside of the large reading room. Not knowing much about the history of world exploration, or British explorers, I was extremely interested in listening to the history of the objects. The documents and artifacts shared with us were truly priceless. Shoes, hats, photographs of the Arctic from some of the first people to visit were unbelievable. These items were all in such fantastic condition as well. Learning about them and their history was a very interesting and entertaining way to spend the afternoon. I wish I had more time to go back and learn some more from Mr. Rae.

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