Dundee University wins Pounds 330,000 to launch digital archive

August 13, 1999

Dundee University has won more than Pounds 330,000 for an ambitious project to preserve Scotland's historic architectural drawings in digital form. It will scan thousands of drawings and photographs and mount them on the first website dedicated to the subject.

The university's archive, a department of its library, has won the grant under the Pounds 30 million research support libraries programme run by the higher education funding councils.

Charles McKean, Dundee's professor of architectural history and principal adviser to the project, believes it could lead to Scotland's cultural history being rewritten.

"Much of the information contained in this project has never before been available, even to the most assiduous researcher. Although it is difficult to predict the extent of its impact, it is

likely to be enormous," he said.

The digital archive will hold scanned images of about 18,000 drawings and photographs spanning more than 200 years, from castles and jute mills to railway stations and high-rise housing estates. It will take the archive staff three years to select and scan the drawings.

The material will include 300 drawings by Sir Rowand Anderson, one of Scotland's foremost architects, held by Edinburgh University. Alexander "Greek" Thomson, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and William Adam will also be represented, as will the Dean of Guild Court drawings held by most local authorities, which not only record buildings but also show how official requirements for space, structure and drainage have changed over the last century.

Dundee's archivist Pat Whatley said architectural drawings and their associated records were vitally important to many disciplines from history to engineering. "Large format drawings and plans bring unique problems of access and storage and are highly vulnerable to damage caused by frequent handling," she said.

"By storing the images in this way we will not only be preserving the fragile originals from further damage, we will also be making collections more accessible to researchers from a range of disciplines."

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