Society Archives

The RSAA archive’s unique and varied collection spans from the mid-19th century to the present day. It includes maps, images and personal papers, notably those of Sir Richmond Shakespear, Lieut Col F M Bailey, Lieut Col R C F Schomberg, Sir Stuart Mitford Fraser, E C M Bowra, and Sir Charles Bell. The watercolours and photographs of General Sir Edward Francis Chapman, made during the Forsyth Mission to Yarkand (1873-4), provided the first extensive visual record of Chinese Turkistan, and are good examples of archive material that reflect the mixture of diplomacy and exploration characteristic of the Society's collection.

Thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the catalogue of the archival collections of the Society is now accessible via the website of the National Archive Office. The catalogue is also held in paper form in the Society's library. This project ensures that the unique historical resources of the Society will be more widely-known and utilised, and will allow the Society to contribute more actively to the national archival heritage. Its aim is to provide a framework for long-term custody and access for researchers.

The RSAA archive has been divided into three sections:

  1. Lecture illustrations and miscellaneous (RSAA/L, RSAA/M).
  2. Specific collections of material from individuals' papers: Bailey to Shakespear (RSAA/SC)
  3. Specific collections of material from individuals' papers: Schomberg and White (RSAA/SC)

Photographs and Slides

The RSAA’s photographic collection contains images from the late 19th century to the present, and our glass slide collection begins in the 1920s. Interesting highlights include images of Kashgar, China, as it was in 1873, a portrait of the 13th Dalai Lama and the crown prince of Sikkim taken in Calcutta in 1910, and a slide made in 1926 of Reza Shah Pahlavi.

The photographic and slide collection is slowly being catalogued and negatives and prints are being produced from the originals. The images will be made available in a digital format when time and funding allow. Anyone wishing to consult the archives should apply to the office and make an appointment to come and view them in person so that the relevant materials may be prepared in advance.

The following countries, regions and cities are represented in the Society’s photographic collection:


  • Afghanistan
  • Arabia
  • Burma
  • China
  • Central Asia - Kashgar
  • Georgia
  • India
  • Iraq - Kurdistan
  • Kashmir
  • Malaya
  • Mongolia
  • Nepal
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palestine and Trans-Jordan
  • Russia
  • Siam (Thailand)
  • Syria (Air and road routes)
  • Tibet
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Yemen - Aden - Hadramaut


Images of Asia

Forthcoming Events

Wed 24 Sep Why Kashmir is Still Important at The Royal Astronomical Society
Wed 1 Oct Experiences of Asia at The Royal Astronomical Society
Tue 7 Oct K2: The Italian Mountain? at The RSAA Library
Wed 15 Oct The Great Game: Central Asia Overland at St Peter's Church Parish Hall


Expedition Silk Road Treasures from the Hermitage Exhibition at the Hermitage, Amsterdam, ends 5 September 2014 more…

Dunhuang Culture and Art Hong Kong Heritage Museum from 28 November 2014 - 16 March 2015 more…

PIAC 57th Annual Meeting 9 - 14 September 2014 more…

Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle A rich collection of items from across Asia, the Middle East and other areas more…

Contemporary South Asian Youth Cultures and Fashion Symposium 25 and 26 September 2014 more…

Recent Recordings

Soqotra: Life in the Arabian Periphery Thanos has an excellent collection of photographs of Socotra having participated in two expeditions there

Churchill's First War: Young Winston & the Taliban A riveting and revelatory account of Winston Churchill's first campaign, in Afghanistan in the 1890's, offering shocking parallels into today's Afghan war

A Journey to the Source of the Oxus


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