There is a need for the continued quantification of the current archaeological and documentary resource. The quantification of grey literature and bibliographic sources would help develop our understanding and subsequent identification of ‘gaps’ in knowledge and the development of research themes. This work could augment the current initiatives developed between Scottish Canals and RCAHMS to improve NMRS data (there are currently c.650 canal related records in the RCAHMS Canmore database) and the quantification of the archaeological resource. In addition, Scottish Canals is investigating ways that the data can be digitised and the resource made more accessible to researchers.
Other aspects of an augmented digitised resource include moves to increase the pictorial resource on SCRAN (http://www.scran.ac.uk/). Scottish Canals also hope to improve archiving protocols for future work, for example through the Online AccessS to the Index of archaeological investigationS project (OASIS), at (http://oasis.ac.uk/). In addition, specific research topics worthy of detailed study include ship and boatbuilding on the Scottish canals.
Future approaches required to address current research gaps should include the following:
- Research placing canals within their landscape context, incorporating initiatives to understand how the canals were utilised. Both desk-based research and fieldwork could identify heritage assets associated with the canals, including timber yards, quarries, mines, settlement, and support industries;
- Exploration of the interface between waterways, the coast, and non canalised navigations (e.g. the rivers and lochs associated with the Caledonian Canal among others);
- Greater quantification, understanding and study of relict waterways from both industrial and pre-industrial contexts; research into the development (and sometimes the demise) of canal ports, such as Grangemouth, Fort Augustus, Port Dundas, and Port McAdam;
- Scotland-wide studies of boat and shipbuilding on inland waters;
- Reconstruction of the wider systems of inland waters, including settlement, transport, exploitation and trade.
Future areas of research remain difficult to define in the face of difficulties quantifying the resource as a whole. Initiatives are in the process of development such as those already mentioned above. However, in the light of our limited understanding of the exact state of the resource, some indications as to potential future avenues of research are presented above.