RCAHMS National Collection

Archaeological Archive

The RCAHMS National Collection includes a wealth of material illustrating and recording all types of archaeological sites and monuments across Scotland ranging in date from the late upper Palaeolithic period to the present day.

People have been making a record of their heritage for centuries and the archaeological collections reflect this, ranging in date from the early 19th century to the present day. Included are perspective drawings, excavation drawings and photographs, site reports and notebooks, context cards, small finds cards and correspondence, as well as the latest digital technologies like laser scanning and 3D models.

Some of the oldest material comes from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection with records by antiquarians like James Skene of Rubislaw, James Drummond and Sir Henry Dryden, as well as early excavation photographs of Roman forts at Newstead, Mumrills and Ardoch and brochs by Sir Francis Tress Barry. Other material includes historic prints and negatives by photographers such as John Patrick, Erskine Beveridge and James Ritchie, as well as early excavation photographs by the Office of Works and the Scottish Development Department.

Other noteworthy collections include material from the excavations by Vere Gordon Childe; watercolour drawings by John Nicolson; surveys of stone circles by Professor Alexander Thom and the research archive of Brian Hope-Taylor. RCAHMS is also the main repository in Scotland for all documentary archives from modern archaeological survey and excavations and holds large quantities of material from archaeological units and projects funded by Historic Scotland.

One of the largest components of the archaeological archive is made up of records created by RCAHMS from its creation in 1908 until the present day. From the earliest notebooks and sketches, to the drawings for the county Inventories, and the latest laser scans, the collection illustrates thousands of monuments across Scotland and how recording techniques have changed through the decades.

The collection continues to grow on a daily basis as our specialist survey staff traverse the country to investigate and record Scotland’s archaeological sites and landscapes, using photography, measured drawings and digital technology.

All the collections can be consulted in our Search Room or by using our online resources. We also maintain an active digitisation programme, with new images being added to Canmore every day. This gallery highlights images from across the Collection and contains examples which are being made available online for the first time.

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