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About the Picture Library

Explore our images, which record over 500 years of geographical discovery.

The Society’s world class Collections of photography, artwork and mapping records over 500 years of travel, people, place and geographical discovery from the 1480s to the present day. We hold over 750,000 photographic images dating from 1850 and the largest private map collection in the world with over 1 million maps dating from 1486. We also hold a vast array of historic images captured throughout the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, taken in almost every part of the world. 

When it comes to geographical discovery our unique Collections enshrine many of the most famous names, such as Livingstone, Speke, Scott and Shackleton. Our imagery and mapping provide the first hand visual material that illustrates the stories and events that shaped their great journeys. 

We are 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 relating to these incredible expeditions cumulating in the historic photographs taken on the 1953 expedition, which was the first confirmed Everest ascent to put two people on top of the highest mountain in the world. 

We have over 17,000 images in our fully searchable online Picture Library. These images, however, represent only a tiny fraction of the content we have in our Collections, so if you can't find what you need please don't hesitate to contact us.

Our images are highly sought after for use in publishing, broadcasting, advertising and education. Our highly experienced and knowledgeable team, which prides itself on providing the best possible quality of service, deals with enquiries.

Moving Footage

Geography on film

The Society’s collection of over 100 films is housed at the British Film Institute and represents a unique record of British scientific exploration and geographical documentary filmmaking over a period of 57 years (1922 - 1979).

The collection is unique to the Society and includes a mix of amateur and professional film, often created by the Society’s Fellows or those involved in projects supported by the Society. Digitising the Society’s film collection has ensured its protection and security for the future.

Individual films in the collection show peoples and places from around the world and provide a valuable record of lost or vanishing cultures, and geographical locations undergoing significant change. Other films link to the Society’s wider Collections, and to its role supporting field expeditions.

The Society’s film collection is freely available for research and enjoyment via the BFI Player. To explore films from the Society’s collection please visit:

If you have information regarding any of the films please email

For all commercial enquiries relating to the film archive please contact

Contact Us

To request rights and order images for commercial reproduction please visit

For individual print purchases please visit RGS Print Store

For all other enquiries, including academic research access to the Society’s photographic and film collections, please contact

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