3 key projects

The Collections Team are currently involved in some fascinating and ambitious projects. Here are three case studies which give an insight into our work.

Project Reveal

In the summer of 2017 six separate inventory teams, weighed down with laptops, ladders, labels and cameras, began the painstaking work of cataloguing and photographing all the collections displayed and stored in 47 different National Trust for Scotland properties.

Project Reveal is the biggest digitisation project that we have ever undertaken. Covering properties across Scotland, from Broughton House in Kirkcudbright to Hugh Miller’s Birthplace Cottage in Cromarty, it will provide us with an updated and accurate record of every item in our care.

With better information we can manage our collections more effectively. We’ll also be in a better position to share what we know about our properties through events, property guides, publications and online exhibitions.

Project Reveal has already uncovered some hidden treasures and stories about our collections, and with all the work taking place in full view of visitors, we’re even revealing some of our methods as well. Our inventory teams are also sharing their experience of recording and photographing the collections through blog posts as they go along.

By the end of the project we’ll have audited, labelled, photographed and described every artefact and work of art in our 100,000-strong collections.

Two members of staff from the Project Reveal team measure a tapestry
Two of the Project Reveal team measuring a tapestry

Synergy: environmental monitoring in the National Trust for Scotland

All of our collections, both on display and in storage, are vulnerable to deterioration from environmental factors such as temperature, relative humidity, visible light, ultraviolet radiation and pollutants. Proper monitoring is essential to preventive conservation, as we try to maintain the right conditions to preserve the fabric of our buildings and the objects in our collections.

During 2018 we’re upgrading all 28 of the Trust’s Hanwell telemetric environmental monitoring systems, to make sure they’re fit for purpose. We’ve upgraded obsolete and failing systems by replacing old hardware – over 500 sensors – and we’re installing new software that will guarantee we have the information we need to protect our collections, while also reducing costs.

The new Hanwell Synergy system provides live data from over 1,000 sensors for anyone at the Trust who needs to look at conditions in our properties. The project began in January 2018, and to date it’s the largest project in the UK to make up-to-the-minute information available in the heritage sector.

The Synergy upgrade has had a transformative effect on our work, as we use environmental information for a range of things – providing property staff with valuable conservation data; supporting funding and lending applications for collections; and improving the visitor experience through better presented properties.

Environmental monitoring at Canna House
Environmental monitoring at Canna House

Morton Photography Project

Photographs evoke memories and create a tangible link to people’s lives, so they’re one of the most powerfully effective resources we have to tell important stories.

In many of our properties, and in the central archive in Edinburgh, we hold a vast and eclectic collection of photographic material, including cameras, 35mm slides, paper prints and glass negatives. Images range from sweeping panoramas of Glencoe and the farmlands of Angus to snapshots of daily life in the Western Isles and the Border towns.

In 2014, the Morton Charitable Trust provided the funds for fieldwork centred on our photographic collections. The money helped us to purchase equipment, train staff, digitise collections and invest in volunteers, all with great success. The project resulted in a series of digital exhibitions, highlighting the role of photography in people’s lives.

Photographs from Robert Smail’s Printing Works in Innerleithen helped local children to see their town in a whole new light. The Tenement House collection in Glasgow illustrates how photography has been used from its inception in 1838 to the Technicolor snaps of the 1970s. A rare and unique collection of glass plates and Japanese 19th-century prints at Broughton House in Kirkcudbright demonstrate how the Scottish painter E A Hornel was inspired to use photography after a trip to Japan.

With additional recent funding from the Morton Charitable Trust, we are able to carry on with this work. In 2018 we’ll focus on other properties with important photographic collections, such as Canna House, where more than 6,000 photographs span a 60-year period and provide rare evidence of life in the Small Isles from the 1930s onwards.

A black and white photo of a group of men and women sitting on a golf course
A photograph from the Tenement House photographic collection