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3. Changed focus

The foundation of the Royal Commission Surveys to produce an inventory of historic buildings and monuments began in 1908 and is still an important concept today, though the definition of what is being recorded and the method by which it is undertaken have totally changed. The change has come about through redefinition of what can be considered of historical and archaeological interest and importance. It has also come from the application of technological advances to recording and surveying.

From 1908 to the 1980s the inventory was conceived as a series of publications as this was the only realistic means of disseminating the information for public and professional use. There was professional discussion but no public consultation on content or areas covered. The National Monuments Records, created in the 1960s, were open to visitors for serious bona fide researchers who wanted to examine subjects in more depth and for those who wanted to consult the unpublished collections of drawings and photographs. Computerisation has completely changed this focus in the last 10 to 15 years.

The NMRs are now the 'Inventory', the active hub of the organisation and the main method of dissemination of survey information. Combined with the integration of the catalogue and the national collection of archives relating to the built heritage, the NMRs reach far more users and in a much more individual way than published inventories could ever achieve.

As a direct consequence of this change of focus, field programmes in Scotland are being designed based on the needs of the NMRS and landscape surveys are designed in a format that enables direct entry to the GIS. Other surveys and plans carried out by the field teams can be scanned and incorporated in plan position in the GIS. Archaeological field records are designed primarily for entry into the NMRS database rather than for publication. As a consequence, publications can be more selective, thematic and analytical.

There is no doubt that computerisation is the main driving force behind this change of emphasis.


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