Our Images

Within our Collections of photography, artwork and mapping you will find imagery that in many cases is unique to us.

Historic images of: Discovery

When it comes to geographical discovery our unique Collection enshrines many of the most famous names to have increased our understanding of the world around us, such as Dr. David Livingstone, John Hanning Speke, Captain Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton. Our Collection of over half a million prints, negatives, lantern slides, stereoscopic images and daguerreotypes dating from the mid 1850’s illustrates the stories and events that shaped their great journeys and discoveries.

Historic images of: Polar exploration

From the iconic photographs taken on the great polar expeditions of the early twentieth century by photographers such as Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley to those images created on the ground-breaking journeys of Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen; you can find some of the most sort after images ever taken at the Earth’s poles within our Collection.

Historic images of: British Mount Everest expeditions

The RGS-IBG is the national repository for all official images taken on the nine British expeditions to Mount Everest undertaken between 1921 and 1953. We hold over 20,000 photographs and documents recording the achievements of these incredible expeditions. The Collection cumulates with the historic photographs taken on the 1953 expedition, which was the first to put two people on top of the highest mountain in the world.

Historic images of: Great artworks

Our Collection of artwork is an important record of travel, geographical discovery and landscape prior to the advent of photography as a practical means of recording the outside world. You can find works by internationally recognised artists such as Thomas Baines, or beautiful unique works by lesser known early travellers. In many cases these artworks represent some of the first visual records to have ever been made of the subjects by Europeans.

Historic images of: People and place

From the earliest days of photography, the Society’s archive offers a wonderful opportunity to purchase imagery of the remoter places of the world during the 19th and 20th centuries. From the Alps to the Himalaya and from the cities of Southeast Asia to the rainforests of South America our Collection records some of the world’s great natural wonders and its extraordinary diversity, as well as the people that inhabited it.

Historic images of: Travel

Included within our archive are a great many images of early tourism and vintage images of global travel throughout the world; taken either by professional photographers operating from a studio locally or by the travellers themselves.

Maps and Mapping

The Society maintains the largest private map Collection in the world, which continues to grow each year. The earliest map in our Collection dates from 1486, the Collection numbers over a million sheets of maps, three thousand atlases as well as globes, gores and gazetteers. The Collection covers almost every part of the globe with examples of mapping ranging from simple printed maps to hand-coloured atlases and manuscript maps created by some of the most famous explorers, travellers and cartographers.