1.1 Project background and aims

The aim of this Framework is to link, inspire, mobilize and help direct the efforts of anyone with an interest in or responsibility for carved stones in Scotland. It is a venture that involves not only the academic community and the fragmented heritage and stewardship sectors, but also individuals and communities across Scotland and beyond.

It is driven by a desire for a more strategic approach to the opportunities and challenges presented by Scotland’s carved stones: its prehistoric rock art, Roman, early medieval, later medieval and post-Reformation sculpture, architectural sculpture, architectural fragments and gravestones and memorials, and its public monuments. Despite including some of Scotland’s most characteristic monuments and some of its most significant contributions to European art and culture, the significance of this resource is often not fully recognized, as is the seriousness of the threats to it, such as weathering and vandalism. To address this, Sally Foster and Katherine Forsyth, with the support of the NCCSS, set up the Future Thinking on Carved Stones in Scotland project (Figure 1).

Four images - a lady using a p-XRF to analyse pigments on a stone, a small grave cross, a stature of a weeping girl and a pictish animal

Figure 1: The banner of the Future Thinking on Carved Stones in Scotland project. © Sally Foster

The NCCSS takes the view that addressing the underlying causes of these problems requires targeted research into what carved stones can tell us about both the past (their historical context) and the present (social value, national and community identity). Research is needed also into curatorial issues, including the identification of best practice: for example, auditing and monitoring the resource, techniques of conservation and management, display and interpretation, and the role of new technologies in all of these.

The heart of the Future Thinking on Carved Stones in Scotland project was a series of workshops to take stock of existing and ongoing research and to identify priorities for future research. Priority was given to two specific areas that seemed particularly pressing or potentially fruitful. First, digital recording technology, a field in which Scotland aspires to play a leading role but the emphasis to date has been on data capture rather than research. Second, carved stones associated with churches, where so many are inevitably found. This is because changes in the role of churches within local communities, specifically accelerating redundancy and changes of ownership, present particular threats to carved stones, while increasing use of heritage as a means of community regeneration offers welcome opportunities.

Workshop 1 Digital recording of carved stones for research: where are we and where can we go? (Glasgow School of Art Digital Design Studio, 12 February, invitees from England, Ireland, Scotland and Sweden). This focused on the corpus of carved stones produced in north-western Europe between AD 400 and 1200, but had implications for digital recording of carved stones of all periods. See Section 8.1

Workshop 2 At the door of the church? Research and carved stones at ecclesiastical sites (Govan Old Church, 1 May, invitees only, from Scotland). See Section 8.2

Workshop 3 Future thinking on carved stones in Scotland (Royal Society of Edinburgh, 26 August, open to all, attendees coming from England, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales). See Section 8.3

Workshop 4 Future Thinking: ScARF for Carved Stones in Scotland (University of Stirling, 28 October 2015, authors and ScARF team).

The Future of Carved Stones in Scotland project website reflects efforts made to communicate and involve people unable to attend the workshops. For feedback on these see Section 8.4.

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