Geologists' Association

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The Geologists' Association[edit]

n August 1858, a letter appeared in the magazine The Geologist proposing the formation of ‘an Association of Amateur Geologists’ so that ‘solitary’ students of the science could form a society where they ‘could compare notes, give an account of our rambles, examine one another’s fossils and minerals and … be of great assistance to one another.’ As a result, an initial meeting by interested parties was held in London on 29 November 1858, to discuss the establishment of such a society. The name ‘The Geologists’ Association’ was formally adopted at a meeting of the organising committee on 17 December 1858, and a ‘Prospectus’ was circulated with The Geologist of January 1859. The first Ordinary Meeting, held on 11 January 1859, was attended by some 200 persons and the first Annual General Meeting took place on 2 January 1860. In the formation of the Association, particular emphasis was placed on the holding of ‘Excursions or Field Meetings.’ These, together with a regular programme of lectures (a list of which can be viewed here) and an annual exhibition, have remained the ‘backbone of the Association’ since. Another early objective of the Association was the formation of Local Groups, in order to advance the interests of the Association, initially in the home counties, both for the benefits of members and to liaise with other ‘Field-clubs and Societies.’ With the passage of time, our Local groups have since spread across the country.

The Geologists’ Association Carreck Archive[edit]

The GA Carreck Archive provides an unrivalled record of the Geologists’ Association from its earliest days to the present.

Dedicated to Marjorie Carreck (GA Archivist from 1955 to 2010) the Carreck Archive comprises a mix of albums, loose photographs, letters, postcards and associated ephemera. It particularly brings to life the field excursions of the GA; the places visited and the people visiting them. It is this mix of geological record and social history that makes the Carreck Archive unique. The Archive has undergone a complete restoration (funded by the GA Curry Fund) and is now housed with the British Geological Survey in Keyworth. The Archive is being digitised by the BGS and a number of albums are now available to view on the BGS Earthwise website.

We currently need volunteers to help document and index the archive on-line. It’s a straight forward task, all you need is access to the internet. It’s an opportunity to get to know the archive and contribute to its indexing creating a resource that will be available for everyone to use.

If you’re interested in volunteering, would like to make a donation to the archive, or simply have any questions about what’s in the archive then please do get in touch: archive@geologistsassociation.org.uk

Jonathan Larwood, GA Archivist

Further reading: Larwood, J.G., 2014. New life for historic geology archive. Earth Heritage, 42, 19-20.

Larwood, J.G., 2016. Geotourism: an early photographic insight through the lens of the Geologists’ Association. In: Hose, T.A. (ed.), Appreciating Physical Landscapes: Three Hundred Years of Geotourism, Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 417, 117-129.

Volunteer projects[edit]

The first two GA volunteer projects on Earthwise are:

Indexing the M.S. Johnston albums[edit]

These 'scapbook' type albums are a great GA historical treasure full of photographs, signatures, letters, postcards, newspaper cuttings and other ephemera that represent her own private record of field meetings she had attended between 1890 and 1937.


Transcribing the Elsie Giles photograph collection[edit]

The first three volumes are assumed to be photographs by Giles, while a fourth volume contains photographs from other individual photographers, many of whom were members the Geologists’ Association. Little is know about Elsie Giles - this in itself offers a volunteer to track down information about her.

Future projects[edit]

A range of topics could form the basis for future projects. Suggested ideas so far include:

Individual field trip articles[edit]

Researching individual field trips and drawing images from across the archives and text from the GA "Circulars" which announced each field trip and included interesting logistical information from the time and the field trip reports that were published in the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. There may also be specimens collected on the esxcursions in the major UK collections e.g. at the British Geological Survey, Natural History Museum and the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.

Biographies of notable historical GA members[edit]

Biographical information on early notable members of the GA can be written and illustrated with portraits, sample signatures or other items in the archive, lists of their publications and obituaries can be created to allow researchers ready access to the literature about a person.

The role of women in the GA[edit]

Unlike the Geological Society of London (established in 1807 to cater for the needs of professional geologists), where women were not admitted to membership until 1919, ‘Ladies’ were eligible for membership of the Association from its formation in 1858. As such, the archive is a popular source for information on professional and amateur women geologists. There is a story here to tell.

Once volunteers become familiar with the collection they will be able to suggest, make and develop topics.