About Us

This website is owned and operated by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) through its Picture Library, which represents the photographic and artwork holdings of the RGS-IBG.

The RGS-IBG is the UK's learned society and professional body for geography, founded in 1830. We are a world leader in advancing geography and supporting its practitioners in the UK and across the world.

The Geographical Society of London was founded in 1830 as an institution to promote the advancement of geographical science.

Like many learned societies at the time of enlightenment, it started as a dining club in London, where select members held informal dinner debates on current scientific issues and ideas.

Under the patronage of King William IV, it later became known as The Royal Geographical Society and was granted its Royal Charter under Queen Victoria in 1859. In 1912 the Society purchased, and in 1913 moved to, its current location, Lowther Lodge.

The Society’s purpose remains the same today as when it was first founded, namely the ‘advancement of geographical science’. However, the manner in which that is done has expanded greatly over the years, while still continuing to include publishing, the support of field research and expeditions, lectures and conferences, and access to its Collections.

The Society is home to one of the world’s finest Collections of photography, artwork and mapping which records over 500 years of geographical discovery, people and places from the 1480’s to the present day.

Our Collection of around two million items, incorporating one million maps and over half a million photographs and artworks is generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and others; as a result we are now able to:

  • Preserve the Collections for the benefit of future generations
  • Provide public access to our materials
  • Promote Collections-related educational programmes for schools and life-long learners

The Society has also been awarded Designated Status for our Collections in their entirety by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

This scheme 'aims to identify and celebrate the pre-eminent Collections of national and international importance held in England’s non-national museums, libraries and archives'.

The Society's Collections, associated exhibitions and curatorial work of the photographic library are supported by Rolex.

Every purchase supports the Royal Geographical Society