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5. The way forward

5.1 Quality of data

The most pressing need now is to improve the quality of the data that are being disseminated online. For the NMRS this has to be

A number of initiatives are being put in place to address these issues.

5.1.1 Authoritative descriptions

Accessing Scotlands Past is an HLF funded project (Heritage Lottery Fund) to create a new layer of text data for each site record in order to mediate the information. It will only address 5000 records but aims to demonstrate the potential improvement in public access that this can provide. This 'mediated' layer will be suitable for purposes such as education, guidebooks, or for the compilation of lists of information for professional use, e.g. rural development schemes. It will also provide a gateway to existing information contained in CANMORE and elsewhere. RCAHMS procedures are being modified to ensure that descriptions are incorporated in the NMRS database for all primary recording work carried out, including aerial photography and buildings recording.

5.1.2 Detailed archive catalogue

The catalogues to the drawings and photographs held in the collection provide not only information about where the items are stored, but also include details about each item. These range from descriptions of an architectural drawing to information about conservation treatment applied to an individual item. While information was previously designed to allow a curator to retrieve an item from the store or the shelf for a user to see in the library, the information is now being used to analyse the content (what drawings by Basil Spence are held in the NMRS). The user expects to be able to access the information remotely so the description of the object has to be self-explanatory. RCAHMS procedures are being modified to ensure that descriptions are incorporated in the NMRS database for all cataloguing work and standards are constantly being refined and revisited.

5.1.3 Digital copies of archive online

As digital versions of material appear online, a much fuller resource becomes available for remote users. A virtual archive can be accessed, tailored to individual needs. The major hurdle is the digitisation of the millions of items held in collections and the accession and curation of millions of items of primary archive now being created in digital form. Much of the digitisation of the NMRS collections has been thanks to the involvement with SCRAN. 35,000 images have been digitised, many with captions. Although these are currently available through SCRAN, they will also be included in CANMORE in the near future. While ADS have led the way on the collection of digital primary archives, it is essential that the national collections have the ability to handle and integrate this material as effectively as they handle paper and photographic archives and a project is in hand to identify what facilities and resources would be required to implement this policy more effectively in Scotland.

5.1.4 Digital maps

The NMRS database can be displayed through the GIS as a series of points resulting from the national grid references relating to each site. This is a start, but still does not encompass the information that is contained on the paper 1:10,000 maps describing the site areas and component parts. As part of the new Digital National Framework that is being developed by Ordnance Survey to replace Land Line data, there will be a 'heritage theme'. It is envisaged that this will be a layer of data derived from the depictions of 'antiquities' on the maps, information supplied by the three NMRs since 1983. This layer is sorely in need of revision for the depictions were badly digitised when being transferred by OS contractors from the paper maps in the 1990s. Additionally, information that is not depicted on the published maps (because it has no topographical structure) is not envisaged as part of this heritage layer, but it should be depicted in the GIS layers of the NMRs. This information about sites and buildings has been gathered from a number of sources, including field and aerial survey. Combined with the Historic Landscape characterisation records, the rasterised first edition and county series OS maps, and digitised aerial photography, this information will build up a powerful representation of the British landscape for research and heritage management.

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Last updated: Fri Jan 30 2004