Increased awareness of the cultural heritage of the canals in Scotland in recent years has resulted in the launch of various initiatives. Many archaeological aspects of the maintenance and recreational development of canals have been serviced through commercial archaeological contracts, as and when works necessitate intervention. This is usually carried out as part of master-planning and the requirements of the planning process which also necessitate desk based research in addition to archaeological intervention. This is also true of partnership or private canal-side developments, such as those undertaken at the Edinburgh terminus of the Union Canal and the developments planned in the Glasgow area (see for example Connolly and Holden 2001; Atkinson and Dutton 2004; Atkinson 2005; Atkinson 2006). This work has also been augmented by research undertaken by the various historical societies associated with canal interests in the past. In addition, perhaps one of the most encouraging aspects of recent activity is the joint British Waterways and Historic Scotland funded Senior Heritage Advisor post which ran from 2007 to 2010.
Larger scale research initiatives
The Europe-wide VEV project (http://www.worldcanals.com/vev/uk/projet.htm), of which Scotland is a part, is designed to highlight and enhance the value of heritage waterways, and thereby demonstrate their importance to regional development planning. VEV was set up with collaboration in mind and provides the opportunity for different sectors to interact and learn from each others’ experience of historic inland waterways. This exchange of experience can inevitably give valuable inspiration to focused and well founded research initiatives.
British Waterways is a public corporation which, from April 2012, operates only in Scotland as ‘Scottish Canals’ (http://www.scottishcanals.co.uk). The Waterways Trust is its charitable arm (http://www.thewaterwaystrust.org.uk/). The British Waterways canals in England and Wales are now managed by the Canal & River Trust (http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/). British Waterways (http://www.britishwaterways.co.uk/home) has committed itself to actively involving the community along its many canals and to collecting oral history on the canal that would then be available to the local community in order to promote tourism but also, along with other community actions, to focus the local communities’ attention on the canal. British Waterways also dedicated a strong focus on the careful integration of modern architecture and structures with the historic heritage of the canal; particularly in relation to the Falkirk Wheel. Projects included the description and reorganisation of the Scottish canal archives, part of the Virtual Waterways Archive Catalogue project which is an electronic catalogue of records relating to the canals (http://www.virtualwaterways.co.uk), and the Caledonian Canal music and stories research and production project (http://www.thecaledoniancanal.org.uk). Canal archives can be found in the National Archives of Scotland, Mitchell Library and the Highland Archive Centre and British Waterways also made contributions to SCRAN.
Canal Assessments have been undertaken in specific regions to help quantify the resource through conservation and management initiatives, often in connection with planning and development such as the Forth & Clyde Cultural Heritage Assessment carried out for Glasgow City Council. Further afield, Waterways Ireland has undertaken a national assessment of the architectural and cultural heritage aspects of all the canals and navigations – perhaps a good model to augment the national and regional sites and monuments records and quantify the available research resource.
Focused research initiatives
Research initiatives covering aspects of specific canals tend to be conducted in isolation and without reference to a wider research strategy. While interpretative documents cover a number of canals, there is a lack of ‘current’ research. Examples include the RCAHMS fold out booklets of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals; and at a more localised level, booklets such as the one for the Dingwall Canal by the Dingwall Museum Trust as part of a series of local studies papers. Other initiatives have included the Wild Over Waterways website for schools (http://www.wow4water.net/), although no recent research has been carried out.
Interest Groups such as the various Canal Societies have tended to concentrate on local matters and the outcome of this activity been published mainly in the Societies’ magazines. The Linlithgow Canal Society has a small museum at Manse Basin in Linlithgow containing Canal artefacts. Contributors to the Railway & Canal Historical Society Journal and to the Newcomen Society have produced in-depth papers on a variety of topics. Articles on specific Scottish canals with a historical bent also appear from time to time in canal magazines such as Waterways World.
Notable publications include Lindsay’s (1968) and Paterson’s (2006) general works on Scottish canals and a number of popular publications on aspects of the canals by Guthrie Hutton (1994; 1998a; 1998b; 2002; 2003). John Hume’s publications on Industrial archaeology (1976; 1977) also include canal related installations, and there are notable publications on specific canals, including work by Cameron (1972) on the Caledonian canal and Fleming (2000) on the Forth, Clyde and Union canals. In addition, British Waterways have produced over the years a series of pamphlets on some historical aspects of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals. Assorted information on Scottish Canals also appears on the Internet, for example ‘Lost Scottish Canals’ on Secret Scotland wiki (http://www.secretscotland.org.uk/index.php/Secrets/LostCanals).
See also the ScARF Case Study: The Union Canal at Leamington Wharf, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh