Monday, 13 May 2013

Collections Corner: Concerning German Town Plans, Black Forest Gateau and Good Conservation Practices.

Dogged work by one of our Collections Team members, who’s just completed the identification and listing of over 400 German Town Plans (produced and printed by the then British War Office between 1943-45) led to the Team celebrating this doughty event by working our way through two packets of suitably Geographical-sounding ‘Black Forest Gateau Cookies’, hunted down in a well-kent British chain-store close by. 

Our Team Member’s work involved checking the geographical location of the 400 towns and villages (some very small) and recording the latitude and longitude of these as a first stage towards eventual production of an electronic graphic index to these plans.  To build on this endeavour, a post-graduate student - on the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Geography MSc Course in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) - is presently doing his Project on electronic indexing in connection with our map collections.

A nice bottle of German-produced Gew├╝rztraminer or Riesling might have been a finer geographical tribute but Curators of Collections know full well that maps and alcohol are not soul mates and – true to best Curatorial practice - must be kept far apart.  So a tea-break with our German-sounding cookies was taken in another room, leaving the Town Plans to rest in peace, free from the hazards of greasy fingers or biscuit crumbs.  As Curators the world over know, a cuppa and a ‘piece’ at one’s desk are ‘verboten’ if one has maps, books, manuscripts, artefacts or other collection items located in close range and curatorial fingers must be kept clean at all times.

Samples from the German Town Plans. Click to enlarge.

Our dogged Team Member was later released to cool off amongst our Polar Collections. (In 2008 we acquired two important collections, the Angus Erskine Polar Collection and the Scottish Arctic Club Collection and a full list of the books in these collections is available on our website).  A future blog will expand on another Polar theme to mark the bi-centenary of the Scottish (Orcadian-born) Arctic Explorer and surgeon, Dr John Rae (1813-1893), who spent a large part of his career working for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada and was also heavily involved in the search for the missing North-West Passage explorer, Sir John Franklin.  

The Society has extensive book, journal, map, and photographic collections which are available to members. These collections are continually updated, and RSGS welcomes donations of relevant material.  Please send any enquiries about the collection to and we'll get back to you as soon as possible (please note that the Collections Team is voluntary and meets once a week).

For more information about the Collections, the Enquiry Service and Access see