The term ‘maritime culture’ grew out of a broader understanding of not only the use of the sea by humans, but the attendant structures, cultural identifiers and associations made between people and seafaring. For example, Britain would claim to be a seafaring nation as a result of ship-building traditions on the Clyde and elsewhere, world-wide maritime exploration and the prestige of the Royal Navy. Norse culture is similarly considered maritime due to extensive sea voyages, raiding and the colonisation of land such as Greenland. Today, people driven in cars along roads and over bridges, are in contact with the sea in quite a different way. They often treat the sea more as part of a leisure canvas on which to play beside on holiday, dive into and explore, and sail on, rather than remember that it is still relied on to move cargo, for example. However, coastlines are still referred to as landmarks and now nations increasingly consider underwater resources and oil fields, and not fishing alone, as an important part of national wealth.
Westerdahl has subsequently broadened his definition of maritime cultural landscape as: ‘the archaeological concept combining sea and land would be the maritime cultural landscape. It means that the starting point for the subject of maritime archaeology is maritime culture’ (Westerdahl 1998). If the holistic approach proposed by this document and the concept of ‘Source to Sea’ is to be developed, this demands that an even more wide-ranging view be taken, which encompasses modern as well as historic popular culture, to re-define and broaden the definition of marine and maritime cultural landscapes.
There can be no doubt that the maritime and marine historic environment in Scotland enjoys an enviable status with regard to the broad and varied resource located off its coasts, along its coastline, within its estuaries, and inter-connected to the network of inland waters. This research framework was developed in a period of legislative change, and one where there is a growing awareness of the maritime and marine historic resource. As a nation, and as members of the international community, there exists a need to fulfil the obligations conferred for the better understanding, management and conservation of our maritime cultural heritage. An important way in which this goal can be approached is through this cross-sector, thematic research framework document.
European marine cultural heritage obligations such as those set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised) 1992, (the Valletta Convention) and the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001 have influenced the exciting developments for the protection of the resource within the UK; notably the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, and more significantly in the case of this framework, the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. Statutory bodies and NGOs have worked hard to provide a voice for the maritime and marine historic environment and to ensure there is a place for the historic environment in the new legislation. This is an encouraging start, and hopefully one around which a research framework can grow and develop.
In March 2009 Historic Scotland published a discussion paper, Towards a Strategy for the Marine Historic Environment as a result of a wide-ranging consultation. The paper set out the challenges and opportunities that, at that time, lay ahead with regard to the marine historic environment, not only at a national strategic level, but also in regional and local contexts. In addition, the ‘Desirable Outcomes’ section also considers how future strategies and initiatives can be measured, indicating areas where this framework can be influential in helping shape how we approach marine and maritime research at a strategic national and regional level. Examples include areas such as ‘Challenges and Future Directions’ – an identified theme within this framework and one where useful cross-referencing will benefit the development of a long-term and sustainable framework. By effective integration of the objectives of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, and those highlighted in the discussion paper, the framework can provide a useful basis for academic and voluntary sector research interests. It is also a useful curatorial tool in helping guide national and local government when making decisions with regard to the priorities for the effective management and understanding of the maritime and marine historic environment.
In addition, this research framework document can also help influence relevant policies and legislation that exist for other areas. This includes terrestrial policies and plans and those of Museums and Galleries concerning the effective management of their maritime material culture and monuments such as historic ships and vessels. Indeed, this inclusive cross sector approach is embodied in the overarching theme throughout this framework, namely ‘From Source to Sea’. As will become clear, this approach aims to promote an overarching, holistic and integrated mechanism upon which all areas of the archaeological discipline, at all levels, can actively contribute to understanding of the maritime and marine historic environment. In this respect, it is also important to employ a pro-active position in ensuring full co-operation with trans-boundary research frameworks, such as those in the rest of the UK and beyond.