2007 Yearbook

INSTITUTE OF HISTORIC BUILDING CONSERVATION YEARBOOK 2007 37 I N R E V I E W an investigator from the TBS team assigned to the case. Usually the investigator conducts a preliminary site visit to assess the recording implications. For instance, as well as the obligatory risk assessment, questions are asked relating to the accessibility of the site, the condition of the building or structure, its historical significance, which features require recording, and the level of recording that is required. The information gathered on this initial reconnaissance visit is then transcribed back in the office into a survey requisition which is used by the Photography and Graphics teams to undertake the physical recording work on site, and to assess any safety issues relating to the site. The luxury of a preliminary scoping visit like that is not always possible however, particularly where the period between notification and works commencing is limited, as was the case recently with Airdrie Academy, for example. In this sort of situation the TBS investigator usually accompanies the photographer or draftsperson to direct and assist with the survey work on site. Investigators also conduct historical research into buildings and sites in order to build a more holistic understanding of each case, and this information is used to accompany and supplement the survey material gathered in the field. In the case of the Tradeston area of Glasgow, for example, we have had the opportunity to comprehensively survey the surviving industrial landscape which has changed dramatically since John R Hume, a noted industrial architectural historian and the current Chairman of RCAHMS, first recorded it in the 1960s and ’70s. A significant part of my work involves liaising with local planning authorities, heritage bodies and other agencies regarding buildings and sites which are currently, or likely to became threatened in the future. My previous experience within local government has provided an invaluable lesson in building successful working relationships and lines of communication with colleagues in the heritage sector as well as with the wider public. While we aim to anticipate where and when the future of significant buildings may come into question and record these in advance, the TBS team frequently undertakes emergency surveys wherever necessary. Probably the best known example of emergency recording undertaken by RCAHMS in recent years was in the immediate aftermath of the Cowgate and South Bridge fire which destroyed a number of historic buildings within the Edinburgh Old and New Town World Heritage Site. More recently we have recorded a traditional cottage of earth-wall construction in Arran prior to its change of ownership and imminent modernisation, a World War II munitions factory at Dalbeattie, comprising an extensive complex of earthworks, concrete and brick-built structures, which is threatened by the construction of a new road, and the derelict interior of a Victorian public swimming baths in Edinburgh, soon to be transformed into a contemporary tapestry weaving visitor centre. This demonstrates the variety of subjects both in terms of scale and type of building or site that the TBS team deals with on a daily basis. This broad range reflects the breadth of expertise within the eight-strong team, which includes specialist interests in defence, maritime and industrial sites, ecclesiastical buildings, theatres and 20th century architecture. My immediate duties are to nurture existing and new links with Scotland’s planning authorities, working increasingly in partnership with other heritage bodies, especially Historic Scotland and the Scottish Civic Trust, and raise awareness of the importance of the TBS work and the critical part it plays in building a better picture of Scotland’s built environment. The future at RCAHMS promises to be challenging and fulfilling with an exhibition of the work of TBS intended for 2007, and RCAHMS centenary celebrations scheduled for 2008 currently in the planning stage. This will be a great opportunity to showcase the extensive and varied work of the whole organisation. On a more personal note, I hope to continue to develop my professional knowledge and skills, in particular my interest in Scottish vernacular architecture. I find it difficult to envisage the particular path along which my future career may travel given the breadth and scope of the historic environment and the various demands and opportunities that this creates. One thing is certain however, and that is that like any job which involves recording, promoting, conserving, enhancing and ultimately understanding the historic built environment, this one promises to be challenging and fascinating in equal measures. Further information The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland – see www.rcahms.gov.uk The derelict interior of a Victorian public swimming bath in Edinburgh, recorded prior to its redevelopment (Photo: Crown copyright © RCAHMS Ref DP 015889)