As our last class visit the Royal Geographical Society was one that I was worried about being super boring. Here I am thinking, I like maps but I do not know if I can listen to someone talk about maps for two hours. Well, I was wrong. It was not all about maps. And it was really interesting. Our guide did not take us back in the storeroom because it is always cramped in those and he knew that it just would not work for a group of our size or as a good way to discuss and showcase the artifacts he wanted to show us.
The society was founded in 1830 and has two million items in the collection. Half of these are maps and four thousand are atlases. Their picture library has half a million images in it. The artifact collection has fifteen hundred objects, they are divided into three different types scientific instruments, personal affects of explorers, and cultural objects from around the world. The objects we were shown were from a ‘Hot and Cold’ showcase. Meaning it shows items from hot parts of the world and from cold parts of the world. Some of the most interesting artifacts were those that actually belonged to explorers, a boot or a hat. I think the boot was one that really made some people uncomfortable. It was recovered from an expedition to Mount Everest, and belonged to a man that died while trying to make it to the top. I find that to be interesting, a man went out there with all sorts of gear and other people and somehow it is his boot that makes it back. It is sad absolutely, but interesting. It seemed to unnerve some people that the boot had once been on a dead mans foot. Maybe I just do not get as freaked out by that idea since it did not seem to be a big deal to me. I was more impressed by the places these items had been. How far they had traveled with and without their owners.
It was a great last visit and one that I especially appreciated because it was not just taking us and showing us the rolling shelves where these artifacts were stored. Shelves are shelves. Skipping that and instead talking about and showing us the artifacts was a much better visit. And I am so glad that I was wrong about it just being a discussion on maps. Maps are cool but this was better.