University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Old places, New ideas: new routes into Canmore, the National Inventory of Scotland.
Peter McKeague, Susan Casey, Rebecca Jones

Last modified: 2011-12-19


The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) maintains the national database and hosts the national collections of the archaeological and built heritage of Scotland, including its maritime waters.  In the last twenty five years the database has evolved from a paper-based system to an Oracle database and ArcGis GIS with well-established online search facilities through Canmore (  As RCAHMS approached its centenary in 2008, the need to develop new strategies to manage increasing volumes of information from professional organisations and amateur groups and to engage the wider public not only through the presentation of information already held in the database, but also by encouraging their active participation, was recognised.  This paper outlines projects that are developing new routes into the database whilst preserving existing work procedures and retaining the structure and integrity of the data model.

After an approach by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) RCAHMS agreed to allow direct access to the internal (staff) database behind Canmore. Through the Specialist User Recording Environment (SURE), the NTS archaeologists may add new records or update information for existing sites on their estates scattered throughout Scotland. Information is held alongside the existing records and is accessible immediately on Canmore for the benefit of all users.  The SURE model has been extended to provide the Orkney Islands archaeologist with a similar solution and several other organisations have expressed interest in joining the partnership.

A moderated approach to adding information to Canmore, pioneered by the Scotland’s Rural Past project, enables community groups, working in partnership with RCAHMS field staff, to report their project results via a mediated form. Information is validated by the project co-ordinator and transferred seamlessly to Canmore. The Trusted User environment has since been opened up to allow National Trust for Scotland (NTS) Rangers to report information from field visits in a consistent manner with the role of validator is undertaken by the relevant NTS archaeologist. 

The most open and inclusive development has been ‘MyCanmore’ through which members of the public may add information to existing records on Canmore and share digital images via a Flickr photo-stream.  With the Archaeology Data Service, RCAHMS has taken the lead role in introducing their OASIS application to Scotland to standardise and ease the information flow from development-funded fieldwork to curators at both local and national level. 

The solutions described above rely on a collaborative and flexible approach to recording the archaeological and built heritage of Scotland and providing a seamless public experience and appreciation of that heritage.  The single distributed system provides a common platform managing technological refreshes, data security including rights and roles and Intellectual Property Rights, whilst ensuring that anyone from professional users, community groups to interested members of the public can contribute their observations directly and efficiently to Canmore. 



National Database, Partnership