State Library of South Australia

Royal Geographical Society of South Australia

The Royal Geographical Society of South Australia Inc. was founded in Adelaide on 10 July 1885 for 'the advancement of geographical science, discovering the past, describing the present and promoting the future'. The Society is a tennant of the State Library of South Australia.

The Society's library and meeting room is located at the southern end of the Mortlock Wing of the State Library on the mezzanine level. Although a private collection, the Society's collection is discoverable through the State Library's catalogue and is available for use by members of the Society and the general public.

Membership of the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia is available on subscription, and among its members are lay people from many walks of life as well as professional geographers.

Today, the Society maintains an interest in the natural and cultural environment and promotes this interest through talks, excursions, and interpretation of the modified and natural landscape, not only of South Australia, but of Australia and the whole world.

It sees itself as having, in the broad sense, a strong contemporary education function.

Accessing the Royal Geographical Society collection

Royal Geographical Society of South Australia (RGS) collection materials are read in the RGS Library during opening hours.

Approximately half of theRGS library is catalogued on the Library catalogue, and consists of books designated as either a part of the Australiana or Rare Books sections of the collection. These show up as either RGS  Australiana Collection or RGS Special Collection, followed by the Dewey Decimal number. These items can be requested in the RGS library during opening hours.

The balance of the book collection is accessed through a card catalogue housed in the RGS library. The books in this catalogue generally relate to exploration and travel outside of Australia, but also include several hundred pamphlets relating to Australian exploration or settlement. The periodicals are uncatalogued, but include the journals and proceedings of the various Australian states' historical societies, Royal Societies, and geographical societies from many parts of the world.

The RGS map collection is accessed through a card catalogue housed in the library.

The manuscript collection is indexed in a book catalogue - Catalogue of the manuscripts compiled by Phyllis Mander-Jones, copies of which are located in the State Library and in theRGS library, or alternatively through Trove: Diaries, Letters, Archives.

Scope of the RGS of SA Collection

The Royal Geographical Society of South Australia library is the largest non-government specialist geographical collection in Australia. Its subject specialities are world exploration and discovery, travel and colonial history with particular relevance to Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. South Australian local histories are also a strength through the Jim Faull Local History Collection. A number of early 16th and 17th century atlases are also held. Resources include material in most formats:

  • a range of up-to-date reference books including atlases, gazetteers and nomenclatures
  • rare books: including a 1598 world atlas by Abraham Ortelius with 119 hand coloured maps; John Lewin's Birds of New Holland 1808; accounts of early sea voyages to Australia and the history of inland exploration and settlement of our continent
  • over 200 manuscripts: including Sir Joseph Banks' Newfoundland journals and John MacDouall Stuart's diary of his expedition across the Australian continent in 1860-61
  • over 800 maps: which provide a record of discovery, exploration and settlement particularly with reference to South Australia and Australia
  • currently 100 periodical titles are received including Australian Geographic, Geographical magazine and National Geographic
  • a pictorial collection of photographs, paintings and drawings
  • a bibliography of genealogical items is available
  • a small collection of artefacts of exploration, some of which can be viewed at on the Collections Australia Network website.

Open hours and contacts

Open Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 1pm

All requests for RGS material can be made during opening hours at the RGS Library in the Mortlock Wing:

Phone: (08) 8207 7266
Fax: (08) 8207 7265


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