[dundee-history] Good news
- Cultural History Goes On-Line
ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE CAST IN A NEW LIGHT
THE first virtual archive of Scotlands architectural history is to be
put on the Internet, thanks to a £330,000 grant.
Dundee Universitys archives department has won funding to create a
digital archive holding 18,000 important drawings, texts and photographs
by some of the countrys architectural luminaries, including Sir Robert
Rowand Anderson, Alexander "Greek"Thomson, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and
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 Scotlands 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 Scotlands historic culture is revealed. our perception of
the countrys 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 Scotlands 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 peoples perceptions of how Scotland
From The Scotsman Monday 2nd August 1999
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