The Scientific Archive of the Russian Geographical Society is the oldest and unique geographical archive in the country. Its creation began simultaneously with the foundation of the Russian Geographical Society (1845).
Most of the manuscripts were received with responses to the programs of the Society. These programs covered a wide range of issues related to the study of the geographical environment, regional economy and the ethnography of the population. For example, in 1847 the Society sent out more than 7,000 copies of the program to make local ethnographic descriptions. The program included six sections: 1) the appearance, 2) the language, 3) the domestic way of life, 4) the features of social life, 5) the mental and moral faculties and education, 6) the folk tales and monuments. Among large number of programs the ones that had a significant impact on the completion of the Archive manuscript collection should be indicated: "The program to collect geographical terminology" (1847); "The program to collect phenological data" (1847); "The program to obtain information on people's superstitions and believes in the South of Russia" (1866); "The program to collect folk law customs" (1877); "The program to collect folk dialects" (1895) and others.
D.K. Zelenin was engaged in the description of the manuscripts on ethnography. He made a detailed inventory of 40 provinces of European Russia (in alphabetical order from Arkhangelsk to Tambov inclusive) In 1914-1916 a reference book "Description of the Manuscripts of the Geographical Society Academic Archive" was published in three volumes.
At the moment the archive has records of manuscripts of all other provinces and regions of Russia, which were not included in the inventory of D.K. Zelenin.
The following manuscripts should be particularly marked out: about the Caucasus and Central Russia, Siberia, the Baltic region, Belarus, Poland, Finland, the manuscript about whole groups of peoples - Slavs: eastern, western, southern; Central Asian nations of Russia, of Siberia, of European Russia.
Materials relating to foreign countries are organized by parts of the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, America, Australia and Oceania.
In total there are 115 ethnographic collections in the Archive - which is more than 13,000 units.
The documents of the Geographical Society Office form the extensive fund of the Archive. The document have been collected since the day of establishment; there are reports and correspondence of the Board of the Society, of the Presidium and the branches, commissions, general meetings, documents of expeditions organized by the Society (about 6000 cases).
Personal funds of prominent Russian geographers and travelers are of special scientific value - P.P. Semenov-Tyan-Shansky, N.M. Przewalski, N. N. Miklukho-Maclay, S.S. Neustruev, P.K. Kozlov, G.E. Grumm Grzhimailo, D.N. Kaygorodov, A. A.Kaminsky, A.V. Voznesensky, V.M. ZHitkov, N.I. Vavilov, V.A. Obruchev, Y.M. Shokalsky, V.P. Semenov-Tyan-Shansky, G.Y. Sedov, L.S. Berg, V.L. Komarov, P.V. Wittenburg etc.
Currently 144 personal funds - more than 50 000 units are stored in the archive of the Society.
Guide "Russian geographers and travelers" . The founds of the Geographical Society Archive. Publishing House "Nauka", Leningrad: Leningrad, 1971.
The Archive plans to republish the guide to add the descriptions of funds received by the archive after 1970.
Collections of rare photographs, negatives, slides, systematized according to the parts of the world and countries (about 3,000 units), and the collection of portraits of the Geographical Society members and other scientists are of great interest.
In 2013 -2014 the Russian Geographical Society scientific archive was visited by researchers from different regions of Russia - Yakutia, Altai, Tuva, the Volga region, the Caucasus, and other CIS countries: Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Abkhazia, Kazakhstan; also from Germany, Canada, USA, Switzerland, Iran, Austria, Scotland, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and others.
In addition to the scientific use of archival materials in the reading room, the Archive participates in various exhibitions, joint publications, selects and provides documents for documentaries and others.