I attended a very informative lecture at the RGS this week. It was about the albums of Naval Surgeon J Litton Palmer, who was travelling in the 19th Century. The lecturer made some interesting comments regarding memory, memorial and historical perspective with reference to recording information contemporaneously, recording it after the event and the use we make of that information now. which made me think differently about how I might approach my biography in terms of creating my critical distance, and and how I should use my subjects own writings
Well, I suppose it was too good to last – all the excitement about the maps, only to be told during last week’s visit that in 1880s, the RGS didn’t necessarily keep everything they were sent, i.e. they do not appear to have kept the original journals of my subject, although they do have the transcribed account, which I know my subject did not agree with, so it wasn’t published in The Proceedings of the RGS as planned. However, saw some amazing contemporary photos of the areas my subject travelled to, so not all downhearted.
Successful visit to the RGS on Monday. Was able to handle hand drawn maps of my subject’s journeys done in 1880’s – amazing. I am able to get copies too (for a price) so it will save me a lot of time not having to do them myself. An added bonus was seeing letters written by my subject and discovering that his personal journals were brought back to the RGS with a view to being published in the Proceedings of the RGS – but this didn’t actually happen. However, the journals are not filed under subject’s name so will have to do more searching to see where they might be.
I have started mapping my subject’s travels – but it is going to take longer than I thought. One reason is that I have had difficulty getting large scale maps (in English) of the country predominantly travelled in. It is large and most currently available maps cover the whole country on one map which makes it difficult to plot accurately, in addition to the changes in the way places were named in 1860 and now. I am hoping the Royal Geographical Society may be able to help me out.