Unlocking the Royal Geographical Society Archives

Glen M. Segell (Institute of Security Policy, London, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To detail a user's experiences of the digital archive project of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) (RGS‐IBG). The “Unlocking the Archives” project has five facets: construction and conservation at its London archives; an online catalogue of its collections; digitisation of images and maps; provision of online fact sheets such as historical time‐lines; and an educational programme that conforms to the UK's national curriculum for secondary schools.


The paper explains how the RGS‐IBG project has changed the way in which the study of the earth, the earth's history, and its historical sources, are selected, created, researched, taught, written, presented, and used. Emphasis is placed on two parts of the digitised archives: Mount Everest and its ascent, and encounters: images of empire.


The two digitised archives described are not only innovative archival releases for worldwide dissemination but are also the basis for important educational projects. The RGS‐IBG is the first UK learned society to provide digital availability and access for research, writing, and teaching.

Practical implications

A very useful source of information and impartial advice for those planning to use digital archives or to digitise their own archives.


This paper fulfils an identified information/resources need and offers a case study description of the Royal Geographical Society's “Unlocking the Archive” project.



Segell, G. (2005), "Unlocking the Royal Geographical Society Archives", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 353-365. https://doi.org/10.1108/00330330510627971

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