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  • Don McEwan
    Cultural History Goes On-Line ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE CAST IN A NEW LIGHT JAMES ROUGVIE THE first virtual archive of Scotland’s architectural history is to be
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 1999
      Cultural History Goes On-Line



      THE first virtual archive of Scotland’s architectural history is to be
      put on the Internet, thanks to a £330,000 grant.
      Dundee University’s archives department has won funding to create a
      digital archive holding 18,000 important drawings, texts and photographs
      by some of the country’s architectural luminaries, including Sir Robert
      Rowand Anderson, Alexander "Greek"Thomson, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and
      William Adam.
      The period will span 200 years, from the dawn of industrialisation to
      the new millennium, and will take three years to complete. According to
      the professor of architectural history at the university, Charles
      McKean, it could lead, to a reappraisal of Scotland’s cultural history.
      The university, which already holds an important collection of drawings.
      will lead a consortium of partners, which includes the universities of
      St Andrews, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Glasgow, Glasgow School of Art,
      the National Archives of Scotland, the Royal Incorporation of Architects
      in Scotland, the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments,
      local authorities and Glamis Castle estate.
      Drawings held by many councils will be particularly important; they not
      only record buildings, but demonstrate changing municipal fashions and
      official requirements for space, structure and drainage.
      Prof McKean said: "Much of the information has never before been
      available, even to the most assiduous researcher. While it is difficult
      to predict the extent of its impact, it is likely to be enormous. As
      this core of Scotland’s historic culture is revealed. our perception of
      the country’s cultural development could be transformed."
      One common misconception from the last century, said Prof McKean, was
      that Scottish entrepreneurs returning from overseas with fortunes made
      from the empire built baronial piles which appeared to be a throwback to
      an earlier style.
      What the drawings now disclose is that the nouveaux riches were actually
      building the most modern houses they could within a baronial turreted
      facade. "They were filled with all mod cons because they wanted the most
      up-to-date conveniences their money could buy."
      Neither were the jute-masters who topped off mills with arching ironwork
      and glass cupolas merely putting the icing on a particularly dull Dundee
      cake. "This was not decoration for its own sake.
      "The Gothic arch was the lightest truss you could make and the spaces
      made the roof space useable to accommodate machinery."
      Prof McKean said putting this wealth of material on the internet would
      bring Scotland’s architectural and social culture within the reach of
      the public and also make it accessible to historians.
      It will take the staff three years to select and scan the drawings, many
      of which are table-sized and need a large-scale digital camera capable
      of high degrees of resolution.
      A Dundee archivist, Pat Whatley, said large-format drawings and plans
      brought their own problems of access and storage and were vulnerable to
      damage caused by handling. Storing the images on computer would preserve
      the originals from further damage and make them available to researchers
      from other disciplines all over the world.
      "The things we uncover may change people’s perceptions of how Scotland
      was built."

      From The Scotsman Monday 2nd August 1999

      Don McEwan

      Jings, Crivvens & Help Ma Boab.!
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