University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Beyond INSPIRE: towards delivering richer heritage data in Scotland.
Peter McKeague, Mike Middleton

Last modified: 2011-12-18


In 2009 the INSPIRE Directive was adopted as a Statutory Instrument by both the United Kingdom and Scottish Parliaments with a view to developing the metadata, Web Map and Web Feature Services, to an agreed timetable, over the next decade.  Both the Scottish Government and Geographic Information community in Scotland recognise that although the mandated datasets are helpful in focusing attention on priorities within the context of creating a Scottish Spatial Data Infrastructure and delivering efficiencies across all tiers of Scottish Government, the INSPIRE Directive should be seen very much as a catalyst rather than a checklist.


The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) recognises the need to and value in sharing the information it curates on behalf of the Scottish public with partner organisations and the wider community for the benefit of the promotion and appreciation of Scotland’s heritage.  Although, the majority of records in Canmore (, the national inventory of the archaeological and built heritage of Scotland and its maritime waters are not protected through statutory designation, RCAHMS has argued that the information it curates is relevant to and should be considered as part of the INSPIRE Annex I Protected Places theme, even if not a mandatory dataset. To date RCAHMS has released a point-based Web Map Service for the information in Canmore and is developing further bespoke services for maritime losses and the results of its own aerial survey mapping programme, the first in a series of richer datasets. Web Feature Services will be developed on release of guidance documents from the Scottish Government.


Promoting the undesignated heritage of Scotland through INSPIRE raises a number of questions over the appropriateness of applying specifications for regulatory environmental data to the wider cultural heritage and how information, so published, could be understood and used remotely by non-specialists.  Archaeological data is difficult; it is ill-defined and incomplete. Would those accessing data remotely necessarily understand the incompleteness, bias and variability of the record in contrast to the fixed boundaries of most designated datasets?  Does the information published under INSPIRE meet both non-specialist and specialist audiences – or are separate services required? The information required to inform a land manager about the evidence for, or character of, a site is very different from the detailed evidence revealed through archaeological investigation. A land manager may need to know if a site is extant, known from documentary sources or revealed through aerial photography or remote sensing whereas an archaeologist should consider evidence from investigation and recording of a site.

Delivery of richer spatial datasets for most archaeological investigations remains an aspiration as they require collaborative, participatory approaches from across the profession. Even if the mechanisms to deliver richer datasets are in place, potential barriers include concerns over intellectual property rights and a reluctance to change working practices though inertia may gradually be addressed through demonstrator services and case studies highlighting the potential benefits in the long term.