Hidden Histories of Exploration: Exhibiting Geographical Collections

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway, University of London
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

This project seeks to enhance knowledge and understanding of the part played by indigenous peoples in the history of exploration, by developing and disseminating research on the subject based in the collections of a major scholarly society. It builds directly on research undertaken to date as part of a Collaborative Doctoral Award supported by AHRC and supervised by the PI in collaboration with the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) This project seeks to develop and transfer this knowledge into the public domain, by means of an exhibition in a prominent site of metropolitan learning as well as by an online electronic resource, and to consider the wider implications for contemporary research into similar collections of material relating to travel, exploration and discovery.

The project responds to criticisms of the standard narratives of voyages of exploration, which have until recently dominated the historiography of travel and discovery. In much of this literature, the role of the inhabitants of territory through which explorers and travellers passed is relegated to the margins. Where their contibutions to the development of geographical knowledge have been explicitly acknowledged, there has been a tendency to accord them a lower status - as 'local' assistants or informants, as guides or porters, as background characters, rather than as truly participants in the production of new knowledge. The project seeks to offer an alternative perspective grounded in scholarly research into the RGS-IBG collections.

In addition to its specific focus, the project has wider methodological and conceptual dimensions relating to research with geographical collections. The research raises questions about the extent to which certain voices and experiences have been systematically 'hidden' in the archival record of travel and exploration, and the possibility of their 'recovery' by means of new approaches to such collections.These are difficult questions which have no easy answers: the purpose of the project is to highlight not only the challenges, but also to suggest possible new ways of working with well-established collections, drawing on new approaches developed by curators and researchers in the context of related collections in Britain, Australia and the USA. These will be the subject of an international workshop on geographical collections held in parallel with the exhibition itself.

The project is designed to stimulate new ways of thinking about geographical collections which will have significant practical applications within the educational and exhibition programmes of the RGS-IBG and other bodies. On the basis of the success of the Society's recent exhibitions in the Crossing Continents series (notably those devoted to 'Bombay Africans' and 'From Kabul to Kandahar') it is envisaged that the exhibition will also highlight aspects of the Society's collections of particular interest to minority ethnic communities which have diaspora links to the areas visited by explorers in the past. This aspect of the project will be sustained through an online exhibition on the Society's website, which will be designed for a wide range of users.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Exhibition - Hidden Histories of Exploration 
Description Exhibition was open 40 days in 2009, venue included RGS-IBG Pavilion and Foyle Reading Room. Exhibits included visual images, text, video, audio, artefacts and artworks. Associated material available included full-colour companion book and catalogue, gatefold leaflet, interpretative materials, banners and posters. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2009 
Impact 1. Enhanced understanding of geography and exploration through exhibition and its travelling form, public engagement activities, educational resources and activities and website attracting large numbers of visits mainly from overseas. 2. There was extensive Media coverage. 3. The website had a major impact internationally. In addition, educational resources were freely available via RGS website. 4. As a model of collections-based research and exhibition, the project influenced collections development strategies at RGS and other major UK heritage institutions, and subsequent exhibition projects. http://hiddenhistories.rgs.org website active until 2019 (currently unavailable) 
 
Title Travelling Exhibit - Hidden Histories of Exploration 
Description The travelling exhibit consists of 19 panels (60 x 90 cm), purpose-designed for temporary display in a range of venues. It has been available from Feb 2010. Panels have been used multiple times by the Society within its education programmes at various levels, including schools and universities, as well as community engagement activity. The panels have been loaned, free of charge, to various venues including a University Science Festival (2000 visitors, 2010), Kew Gardens Open House Day (1200 visitors, 2011), the Royal Engineers Museum (3442 visitors, 2013), University Science Festival (2018). 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2009 
Impact Example followed by others. 
 
Description 1. That it is possible to highlight the contribution of marginalised or forgotten groups to the history of exploration using the collections of major UK institutions such as the Royal Geographical Society.
2. That public interest in new approaches to exploration and empire is substantial (the success of more traditional approaches notwithstanding)
3. That research and exhibition-making can be mutually supportive activities
4. That collections-based research is a powerful research model for historians of exploration and encounter
Exploitation Route Similar kinds of collections can be approached the same way.
The exhibition provided a model for new approaches to the history of exploration in the UK and internationally: for example see:
http://timetoeatthedogs.com/2009/11/04/interview-with-felix-driver/
http://history.cass.anu.edu.au/event/conference-local-intermediaries-international-exploration
The project formed the basis for an impact case study to the 2014 REF:
https://impact.ref.ac.uk/casestudies/CaseStudy.aspx?Id=30231
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://impact.ref.ac.uk/casestudies/CaseStudy.aspx?Id=30231
 
Description The underpinning research suggested that innovative curation and exhibition of the RGS-IBG collections could communicate a more inclusive history of exploration, in which the contributions of a wider range of people were recognised and valued than has traditionally been the case. The AHRC evaluated this work as outstanding - 'a highly effective project which has had a significantly greater public impact than anticipated' - and presented it as a case study of 'world class research and its impact'.The research exhibition and website have been visited by large numbers within the UK and overseas; a travelling exhibition has visited various venues; the RGS-IBG created schools teaching resources around the topics of the exhibition; the media gave the exhibition extensive coverage and several newspapers produced their own online image galleries in addition to those of the web version of the exhibition; exhibition resources were used in university courses, teaching publications and in diversity training and education; the RGS-IBG and other institutions holding heritage collections have been inspired by the success of the project to develop collaborative, collections-based research. More specifically, some of the materials highlighted in the research (including film, watercolours and photographs) have subsequently been used in other exhibitions, publications and projects, at the RGS-IBG, the British Museum and the British Film Institute.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Royal Geographical Society 
Organisation Royal Geographical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution see final report to AHRC and Impact Case Study submitted to 2014 REF.
Collaborator Contribution see final report to AHRC and Impact Case Study submitted to 2014 REF.
Impact see all the outcomes linked to the Hidden Histories of Exploration project
Start Year 2009
 
Description Article in Guardian by Louise Tickle (illustrated) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'Time to recognise the role of local guides in nineteenth century exploration' Illustrated feature on exhibition by Louise Tickle, Guardian, quoting from exhibition and publications.

Directly, unknown
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description BBC History illustrated feature 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'Forgotten explorers are recognised at last', Illustrated feature by Rob Attar, BBC History, p.14. showed interest

maintained contact with BBC History, invited to write later features
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/0/
 
Description Geographical Magazine photo feature (Hidden but not forgotten) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Illustrated feature, Geographical Magazine, pp. 50-55. stimulated interest.

interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Interview for exhibition education (Tate Britain) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview with Tate Britain exhibition and intepretation staff in support of Artist and empire exhibition. Two interviews recorded for use as podcasts ('Walter Crane's Imperial Federation Map' and 'John Linton Palmer's portraits from Vancouver Island'), Oct 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Lecture, Canberra 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Plenary lecture on 'Intermediaries and the archive of exploration' at a conference at the Australian Centre for Indigenous History, Canberra.

publication, continued communication with various scholars at conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://acih.anu.edu.au/events/local-intermediaries-international-exploration-conference
 
Description Presentation in conference on research collaboration in practice 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation in Critical Approaches to the Archives panel, AHRC Conference on Research Co-operation in Practice, Institute of Historical Research, Feb 2009 - stimulated discussion.

Interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/News-and-Events/Events/Pages/26-27th-February-Conference-Research-Co-operation...
 
Description Public Lecture at Royal Geographical Society (520 people) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Attended by 520 people. Many visited collections and exhibition afterwards.

Visitors to exhibition, interest in my work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://www.rgs.org/whatson/london+lectures/monday+night+lectures.htm
 
Description Public Lecture, Madrid 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public Lecture ('Exploring the Royal Geographical Society and its collections'), Sociedad Geográfica Espanola, Fundación Ramón Areces, Madrid, October 2015. With a podcast.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.fundacionareces.es/fundacionareces/cargarAplicacionAgendaEventos.do?identificador=1801
 
Description Public Lecture, Munich 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public Lecture ('Hidden histories? The agency of indigenous peoples and intermediaries in the history of exploration') at the Deutscher Alpenverein, Munich, to mark the opening of an exhibtion on th Schlagintweit expedition to the Himalayas. Followed by an interview recorded for Bavarian public radio, and panel membership of a workshop held at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences & Humanities, Munich, April 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Seminar to Pitt Rivers Museum curators 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar presented to Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford - stimulated discussion.

discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://www.ox.ac.uk/gazette/2009-10/weekly/291009/lecs.htm
 
Description Series of 4 showcase talks to members of the public 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Four showcase talks by PI and RA to members of the public concerning the exhibition at the RGS-IBG on 3, 5, 10 and 12 November 2009.
stimulated discussion.

led to sustained communication.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://www.rgs.org/RGS-IBG-SITE/Templates/Level4FreeFormat1.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID=%7b3E75...
 
Description Sunday Times Culture Section feature (Book it Now) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Sunday Times Culture Section, lead event feature

not known.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Sunday Times article on exhibition by Richard Brooks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'Unearthed: pictures of Mallory's first bid to conquer Everest' - Feature by Richard Brooks, Sunday Times. Sparked questions and discussion.

no direct evidence.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Talk in Black History Month to 16-18 year olds 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk to 16-18 year olds in Black History month event at Royal Holloway, sparked questions

interest in geography from visiting BME students
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Talk in the 'Be Inspired' series (RGS) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lectures in the 'Be Inspired' season of talks (for a public audience) at the RGS-IBG.

Continued contact with some attenders. More visits to RGS collections.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2013
URL http://www.rgs.org/WhatsOn/Collections/Be+Inspired.htm
 
Description Tate Britain symposium (Beyond the Academy: Research as Exhibition) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited presentation to a Tate Britain symposium in collaboration with LCACE to consider the place of exhibitions in research and the creation of new knowledge.

led to fruitful dialogue and new networks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/audio/beyond-academy-research-exhibition-part-2
 
Description The Times, feature article by Melissa van der Klugt 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The hidden role of the 'noble savage in exploration', Feature on exhibition, published in The Times.

not known.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Times Higher feature article on exhibition by Matthew Reisz 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Times Higher Education article 'From the margins to the main page', sparked interest.

not known.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Workshop on Geographical Collections, 34 participants, from UK, USA, Canada, France, Australia. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 34 participants, from UK, USA, Canada, France, Australia. Networking and dialogue across disciplines and internationally.

further research collaborations and networks
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://hiddenhistories.rgs.org/index.php/research/research-workshop
 
Description Workshop presentation (Using collections for research and teaching) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation on project to Workshop organised by the Historical Geography Research Group, led to discussion.

discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010