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Historic Scotland Archive Project

Historic Scotland is the government agency responsible for safeguarding the nation’s heritage. Part of its work involves the funding of excavations and other archaeological research, often when a site is in danger of damage or destruction. Upon completion of work, or when the final report has been published, archive generated by these projects is deposited with RCAHMS, where it is catalogued as part of the Historic Scotland Archive Project and made available for public consultation.

The archive includes material from older excavations funded by Historic Scotland’s predecessors, for example the Office of Works and the Scottish Development Department (Ancient Monuments Division). The archives catalogued cover a wide range of Scottish archaeology, from excavations at Buiston crannog and Edinburgh Castle to an excavation and survey archive from a large programme of work around Lairg (Highland).

The archive for each archaeological project varies, but generally comprises photographs, drawings and manuscripts. Increasingly, digital material is also being deposited. Archives include both material generated on site – such as photographs, field drawings, site notebooks and paper records – and research and publication material, such as correspondence, post-excavation records, finds photographs and draft reports. The archive can provide interesting insights to work on site and the excavators’ evolving thought processes – information that may not be apparent in the final report. The preservation of the site archive also means that it can be reassessed in the light of new discoveries or advances in knowledge.

Once catalogued, archives can be easily retrieved and consulted by the public in the RCAHMS Search Room. An appointment can also be made to consult material that has been accessioned, but not yet fully catalogued.