Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: fieldwork, rescue and archive
This thesis examines the role and work of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland from a geographical perspective in the period 1908 – c.1975, with especial reference to the historical geographies behind the production of the national inventory of Scotland’s ancient and historic built monuments. The thesis examines the sites of practice where the Commission produced the national inventory to explore the doing of the inventory. Fieldwork is a central concern of the thesis. Attention is paid to the spatial aspects of Commission’s work both in the field “out there” and in the office “in here”. The thesis discusses the methods and technologies which fostered the development of fieldwork practices rooted in the office and in the field. The Commission was always ‘doing fieldwork’ and this thesis brings into focus the relationship between the different spaces and places where the Commission undertook what might be labelled as work in the field. The thesis is comprised of nine chapters. An introduction and literature review are followed by an examination of the history of antiquarianism relevant to the establishment of the Commission. A further two chapters provide an overview of the Commission’s history, arranged chronologically, and its archive, understood in relation to relevant archival theory. Three chapters consider the development of the Commission with particular attention paid to fieldwork techniques and methods, the development of rescue archaeology, and the associated technologies which facilitated the Commission’s work within a rescue paradigm before turning, finally, to examine the Commission’s database, Canmore. Examining the Commission in this manner has drawn attention to the ways in which geographers and others conceive of fieldwork and how the development of the Commission was inherently linked to ways of doing work in the field. Through examining the history and geography of the Commission’s work the concern of this thesis is to study how ‘antiquarian research’ was carried out in the field “in here” and “out there” simultaneously. The thesis suggests that narrow definitions of fieldwork overlook the nuances of how ancient Scotland was revealed through suites of different practice. The thesis argues that more fine-grained approaches to understanding the how of the doing of fieldwork might lead to reconceptualisation of the place of work in the field, recognising that different practices helped constitute both ancient and historical Scotland as the object of the Commission’s work and the Commission itself.