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Revolutionising research through digitisation

Revolutionising research through digitisation
06 Jan
Histories of exploration have become an increasingly popular area of research over the past few decades

Here at the Society, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, we host PhD students carrying out research on our Collections through the Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDA) scheme. To date there have been 12 projects, focusing on topics ranging from women’s involvement in RGS-IBG Society-supported expeditions to the relationships between family history and community heritage in diasporas.

Former CDA student, Dr Peter Martin, used our Collections to understand the Society’s involvement in the geographical exploration of the Arctic regions at the turn of the 20th century, and he has also recently published an academic paper reviewing the study of exploration.

Historical material, such as the maps, artefacts and manuscripts held at the Society, provides a key source of evidence through which past expeditions can be studied, as well as opening up new lines of enquiry and questions about representation and under-representation. As Dr Martin explains, ‘Growing attention has been paid to those groups or individuals who have historically been written out of traditional exploration accounts. We have seen the key roles played by women explorers, indigenous people and various others exposed and investigated more thoroughly.’ Research on the Society’s Collections spans disciplines beyond geography, shedding new light on social and scientific processes in the 19th century, as well as past environmental and climatic conditions.

As part of our commitment to make the Society’s Collections more accessible for research purposes such as these, and to support teaching and learning, we are working with Wiley Digital Archives to digitise hundreds of thousands of items from the archives. The result is an online portal that enables digital access to a variety of both published and unpublished material, revolutionising access to the Collections, while preserving them for years to come. Head of Enterprise and Resources at the Society, Alasdair MacLeod, said, ‘The digital archive will allow researchers around the world, via their institutions, to access these incredible resources and create new pathways for interdisciplinary research and education. In turn this will enable them to uncover the hidden histories and stories behind some of the early expeditions.’ The digital archive will also be available to access by anyone visiting the Society.

You can find out more about the Wiley Digital Archives project on our website at: www.rgs.org/collections. Dr Martin’s article, co-authored with Ed Armston-Sheret, Off the beaten track? Critical approaches to exploration studies, is open access and available to read here: geog.gr/37tzBme.

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