Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Former Scottish BBC HQ becomes Building at Risk

The old BBC HQ building in Queen Margaret Drive has entered the Buildings at Risk register:

BBC Buildings (Former), SCT Ref No 4826, Glasgow

Development plans have fallen through as cash evaporates, although the plan has not been dropped as such.

Demolition has removed much of the rear of the structure, leaving the frontage, but reports indicate the metal thieves see easy picking and seem to have been raiding the roof, leaving the structure open to the elements, and therefore subsequent damage.

via Former BBC HQ becomes Building at Risk – SeSco.


July 18, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

£1 million funding boost for historic buildings

Moody castleDespite the whining heard from some sectors regarding financing and spending cuts these days, it’s nice to see that Historic Scotland is still able to help look after our built heritage.

Some £1 million worth of funding has just been announced to help six historic buildings remain active within their communities:

Drum Castle (Aberdeen) receives almost £466 k to help it function as a wedding venue.

Craigston Castle (Aberdeen) will get almost £250 k as part of a sustainable tourism project.

Stirling’s Smith Art Gallery also gets around £250 k to assist with its plans for expansion.

Dunoon’s Burgh Halls will be aided by £160 k.

The Haining Estate in the Borders gets almost £37.5 k, to become a contemporary arts, music and literature centre, following its donation to the community after the owner’s death in 2009.

Ullapool Museum will receive around £14 k, and will continue as a community resource.

BBC News – Scottish historic buildings land £1m boost

July 2, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Website archive delays mean digital heritage is being lost

Open safeI spotted a news items a few months ago, one which initially surprised me, but then began to make more sense as I realised it was a reflection of the way the web has changed in the years when it was the preserve of the computer literate and the folk who first created it, and had become just another piece of the commercial  global network. What was once owned by all had silently become the property of the media and governments, rather than what some might describe as a few geeks or nerds with a good idea.

Instead of being free (not in the financial sense, but in the sense of being free and open), it was becoming something where politics and legislation would determine its future, and as we are now seeing, the media magnates (or rather Rupert Murdoch) seek to claim rights over content that was once made freely (yes, in the financial sense this time, but really funded by advertising revenue) available, would be locked behind paywalls, with tasters of a few words being hung out to attract buyers.

The first warning that things were both being lost, and going to be lost, appeared back in October 2009, when we learned that digital literature, online scientific research and internet journalism that should have been saved in the nation’s main libraries over the past five years may already have been lost because ministers have failed to give them the legal power to copy and archive websites.

Senior executives at the British Library and the National Library of Scotland (NLS) said they were dismayed that legislation giving them the right to collect online and digital material is still not in force, more than six years after it it had been passed by parliament. The omission means that the libraries – which are legally required to archive books, newspapers and journals – have already failed to record online coverage of major events such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the release of the Lockerbie bomber and the MP’s expenses scandal. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has admitted that the powers, set out by the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, will not become law before the next election, after a series of delays in getting proposals from an advisory panel and hold-ups in Whitehall.

Fast track announcement

Things may be set to improve , as culture minister Margaret Hodge is now pressing for the faster introduction of powers to allow six major libraries to copy every free website based in the UK as part of their efforts to record Britain’s cultural, scientific and political history.

The British Library, the NLS, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian in Oxford, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin should have the same legal authority to collect digital material that they have for printed works. Copies of every book, journal and newspaper printed in Britain must by law be deposited in one of these libraries. Once the new powers come into force, the same rules would apply to digital publications, under a system known as electronic legal, or e-legal, deposit.

Hodge has launched a consultation, possibly hoping to stem the current criticism directed at the archiving failure, which is due to end in March and would allow the nominated libraries to copy and archive free sites using the .uk domain name and all other UK-based sites, such as the more than 4 million free websites currently active in the UK, and proposed new domain names such as .sco for Scotland and .cym for Wales will would also be included.

The culture minister has however conceded she is unlikely to get these powers in force before the next election, but officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “We will make as much progress as we can in the time available.”

However, as already noted, paid-for websites ‑ which may soon include the Times, the Sun and all other News International titles under plans for paywalls outlined by Rupert Murdoch ‑ will still be closed off to the copyright libraries, so the free sites will take on an ever more important role, thanks to Murdoch and his like.

December 27, 2009 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | , | Leave a comment

Dounreay may become first nuclear heritage site

Dounreay dome

© Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd and NDA

Dounreay almost seems to be getting more mentions since it closed down than when it was active.

We mentioned the creation of the National Nuclear Archive in Caithness back in early 2008, although there are further mentions from the time, we’ve seen little more news.

There is now news of a bid for Dounreay to become the first nuclear heritage site, as the company dismantling the installation launches a three month consultation to determine what should remain on the site.

Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) is dismantling the site, which was built on the Caithness coast in the 1950s and used for experimental nuclear reactor projects, with the experimental fast breeder within the dome achieving criticality on November 14, 1959.

If the plans, which are described as the first to encompass the entire site, are successful, Dounreay could become the first nuclear heritage site in the country.

November 16, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

BBC Queen Margaret Drive deal completed

Old BBC HQ Queen Margaret Drive © Thomas Nugent

Old BBC HQ Queen Margaret Drive © Thomas Nugent

When the BBC decided that its Glasgow HQ in Queen Margaret was no longer suitable, it built (another) shiny new glass box on Pacific Quay to suit its purposes and house its staff. Part of the £18.5 million deal was the securing of planning permission to transform the site into a new hotel and housing development. This to consist of new housing and restoration and conversion of the historic buildings on the site, which covers more than 5 acres.

The BBC occupied the site for more than 70 years, having established its operation there in 1936, and beginning its move to Pacific Quay in 2007. Your scribe only made it through the hallowed doors once, many years ago when the public were admitted to an exhibition, and can’t remember a thing.

Following revisions to an earlier planning application, approval has now been granted for the conversion of the former BBC HQ buildings into a £25 million luxury hotel, The Hamilton, with120 bedrooms and a spa, expected to open in 2011. One of those buildings, the Anatomy Building, was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and John Keppie, and the developers has said the restoration will add to Glasgow’s aspiration to become a Mackintosh World Heritage Site.

The housing development had originally called for 180 “luxury residential units”, however the planning department concluded this was not a financially viable option, and the final approval was granted in February for 159 homes to be built on the site, including a mixture of townhouses and apartments.

I’ve nothing against the architecture of shiny glass boxes (and even get my knuckle rapped for praising them on occasion), but the BBC’s effort on Pacific Quay seems to be a particularly bland realisation, and is made all the more dull by its proximity to the more adventurous designs of the Glasgow Science Centre and IMAX theatre only a few metres away, and the Crown Plaza Hotel and Armadillo (Clyde Auditorium) across the river.

May 6, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Old digital archives secured

clockworkcomputerOne of the subjects I’ve written about in recent years is the danger of technological advances rendering relatively modern digital archives and objects useless.

Potential examples would be digitally archived documents, images and computer programs which are recorded in formats which have become obsolete and disused, leading to them falling out of use, abandoned, and forgotten – as may the equipment needed to read them. A similar fate could await future Classic cars, and Formula 1 race cars. Both are dependent on customised software and and microprocessor based system in order to be maintained, and a current Formula 1 car will not even start without external hardware attached. Current Classics need little more complex than screwdrivers and spanners, and perhaps a hammer.

In effect, this means any digital record is at risk, and it seems that there is already a substantial portion of digitally archived material that is considered to be unreadable. The use of proprietary formats by some archiving systems is no help either, although customers who saw the danger of this locking them into the suppliers’ price plan soon saw that idea off, and more transportable file formats were generally adopted.

A newly announced project will hopefully provide old digital objects dependent on outdated and obsolete system to live on into the future, and not be lost due to something as simple as an inability to access them.

The KEEP (Keeping Emulation Environments Portable) project will develop an Emulation Access Platform to enable accurate rendering of both static and dynamic digital objects: text, sound, and image files; multimedia documents, websites, databases, videogames etc. The overall aim of the project is to facilitate universal access to our cultural heritage by developing flexible tools for accessing and storing a wide range of digital objects.

KEEP will address the problems of transferring digital objects stored on outdated computer media such as floppy discs onto current storage devices. This will involve the specification of file formats and the production of transfer tools exploited within a framework, and taking into account possible legal and technical issues. KEEP will address all aspects ranging from safeguarding the original bits from the carrier to offering online services to end-users via a highly portable emulation framework running on any possible device. In addition to producing a software package, the project will deliver understanding about how to integrate emulation-based solutions with an operational electronic deposit system. Existing metadata models will be researched and guidelines will be developed for mapping digital objects to emulated manifestations. Overall, KEEP will create the foundation for the next generation of permanent access strategies based on emulation.

Although primarily aimed at those involved in Cultural Heritage, such as memory institutions and games museums, the Emulation Access Platform can also serve the needs of a wide range of organisations and individuals because of its universal approach. The project is expected to take something like three years to complete, and is costed at something in the region of 4 million euro, so is not a trivial exercise.

The result is considered to be worth the cost and effort, with an estimated £2.7 billion being wasted in the delays caused by problems in accessing old digital records. Using emulation to access the records is also considered to be a better than continually migrating the ageing records, which has the inherent risk of loss and corruption of the data each time the operation is performed.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Lost | , , , , | Leave a comment

Edinburgh retains World Heritage Site status

We noted some concerns recently that Edinburgh’s status as World Heritage Site, first conferred in 1995, might be at risk due to the amount of redevelopment taking place there.

After spending almost four days in Edinburgh, and studying both current and future development plans, officials from UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) have indicated that they will be recommending that the status be retained in their report to the World Heritage Committee ahead of its meeting in Seville next July.

Dr Mechthild Rossler of the Unesco World Heritage Centre, and Professor Manfred Wehdorn of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, studied the state of conservation within the city, plans for each of the proposed projects and their potential impact.

‘The World Heritage Committee was concerned that the Caltongate development was approved prior to the committee looking at it more closely. That’s why the mission was ordered,’ Dr Rossler said.

Have reviewed the plans, the inspectors will be making an initial report to the City Council, with recommendations and concerns regarding what they say, but expressed the view that there was no doubt that the council cared very much about the status, and that compromises could be found where needed.

I think I’m quite pleased at this outcome, as it means things are probably quite well, and Edinburgh is in safe hands, its status is secure, but there’s just that little hint of a “shot across the bows” to keep the council in line, and not stray too far town the development path and loosing touch with the past.

Glasgow doesn’t have this sort of thing to worry about, and the swathes of demolished land and gap sites that have sat empty for decades, and the march of metal and glass boxes that are running along the Clyde now (and no, I don’t thing pink paint simulates red sandstone like the developers say) show what happens when there is no external check. Listing doesn’t help as buildings here just get left to decay and are either demolished because they become unsafe, or are vandalised and burnt down, again to be demolished for safety reasons. Even those that are supposed to be retained seem to get lost – as I see a small stone frontage belonging to an old bank has vanished, despite plans published showing it incorporated into the new build its rear was demolished to make way for.

December 5, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Edinburgh risks World Heritage Site status

One of the things we decry in SeSco is the sort of aspirational development that some places seem to think is necessary in order for them to attract what can be described as “new money”, or just “tourist dollars”.

Instead of being happy with what they have, they listen to some jumped up salesperson for an advertising, marketing, or media firm who fills their head with boiled snow and convinces them that the attractions and features which have made their site successful are old-fashioned, and not what the “new money” wants to see. Somehow, they manage to convince otherwise sane and responsible people to trash their established features, and replace them with the latest upmarket, short-lived development – probably a plastic, prefabricated shopping centre, or a glorified box of luxury flats.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) has revealed that it is concerned that Edinburgh is failing to protect its historic character, and that its World Heritage Status, granted in 1995, may be at risk.

Good for UNESCO. While it seems to be particularly concerned with four major current developments: the Caltongate development in the old town, the transformation of Leith waterfront, the redevelopment of the St James shopping centre and the rebuilding of the Cowgate fire; I’d liked to have seen them include the £40 million OOPS, SORRY! £400 million wart near Holyrood as well.

Like most councils subject any sort of criticism, Edinburgh City Council seems to be happy to bury its head in the sand, and has said it is relaxed about the scrutiny, and that planning proposals consider the impact any development will have on the cities heritage and they do everything they can to preserve the capital’s unique historical character.

I suspect nothing will come of this, but on the other hand, I’d like to see Edinburgh get a warning shot across its development bows, and that it might send a similar warning to other town. It’s depressing to visit various town around the country and have only the road signs to tell you where you are, as they all descend to the same level of block paving and glass box development.

Historic Scotland has until February to reply to the report.

Delegates are to meet at Seville’s 2009 Unesco summit in the summer to discuss the findings.

November 5, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , | 1 Comment

Rothesay town bell could face end on scraphead

Bute Town Bell as removed safely from former council buildings ©

Bute Town Bell as removed safely from the tower on the former council buildings ©

In a story you probably couldn’t write deliberately and expect to be taken seriously, it seems that a lack of communication between the various parties that should have been involved could lead to a significant part of the the town of Rothesay’s heritage being consigned to the scrapheap.

The former council building and sheriff court in Castle Street have lain empty for some years, since the official occupants moved out. Work recently began to convert the building into flats for local housing association Fyne Home, and the building has been reduced to little more than the retained façade, within which the new residences will be constructed.

Part of the work included the removal of the town’s bell, reported to date from 1834, from the tower which topped the chambers, and as part of a cost saving exercise, Fyne Homes agreed to Burntfield Demolition – who provided the crainage to allow the bell to be removed – gaining ownership of the bell in return for their services.

The surprising fact which has come to light in this exercise is that none of the Bute’s three councillors were aware of the bell, or the deal regarding its disposal, and it appears that such a relevant piece of the town’s history can be disposed of without any permissions being sought. The councillors are now in the ironic position of working out how to buy back something they once technically owned.

Contrast this situation with the position regarding the replacement of windows in the town’s listed buildings, which involves the council, Historic Scotland, various permissions, news articles, and drags on for months, with even the EU and related funding applications being drawn into the debate.

Although documentation shows the bell to date from 1834, it also carries an inscription marking its recasting in a Glasgow foundry in 1876.

It seems that the councillors have been given three weeks to try and secure the money from the Rothesay Common Good Fund before anything is done with the bell. There is no indication of the value of the bell, however documentation showed it to have originally cost just over £108. The councillors have said that whatever value is placed on it, the contractor should be reimbursed in full.

Assuming the bell is successfully rescued, Bute Blacksmiths have agreed to provide safe storage space for the bell until its future can be determined.

Read the full story Fight on to save Rothesay town bell in the Buteman.

Also, Window row is back on agenda.

October 10, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Military Heritage Scotland

Please note that this is now an archival article, and refers to a project which was ultimately dissolved.

(But see also the Comments section below, where is news of a revised project at the Scottish Military Heritage Centre.)

Set up as a charity, Military Heritage Scotland aims to create a world class museum facility which will embrace all aspects of Scotland’s military history.

The Daily Record covered the story a few weeks ago, Call to build £100m Scottish Museum of War.

Inspired by former Scots Guard James Percy, a steering group has been formed, chaired by  Professor Gordon Murray from Strathclyde University’s School of Architecture and Jon-Marc Creaney of leading architects GCA, and the project is already reported to have attracted a donation from the New York-based Friends of Scotland organisation. The plan is also reported to have received backing from First Minister Alex Salmond – for a museum to rival London’s Imperial War Museum – and MPs and MSPs from all parties have also given their support, although there seem to be no tangible contributions (ie cash) so far – just the political equivalent of kissing babies and looking good.

At this stage, the organisation is seeking donations to help fund a feasibility study, as they have to establish the location of an appropriate site, likely operation costs, and the potential long term sustainability of the concept. We’ve noted the demise of one or two formerly well-established museums in Scotland here in recent years, and while their content may make a difference, falling visitor numbers in all but the most widely publicised venues, eg Kelvingrove, may not be promising. Scotland’s science centres are also pleading for money to keep them open, and places such as The Big Idea in Irvine have simply been unsustainable, and folded.

We don’t have such a facility here (yet?), so we have to hope they get the formula right:

It is envisaged that the project will produce a building and destination that will draw visitors nationally and worldwide, providing an opportunity to display warships, submarines, landing craft, armoured vehicles, tanks and fighter planes, allowing visitors to experience them first hand.

The facility will also incorporate educational and research resources with a repository for books, memorabilia and artefacts relating to Scottish Military Heritage, providing a military centre which will encourage Scots of all ages to take an interest in its own history and heritage.

The preferred choice of site would see a world-class floating museum built at Govan docks next to Glasgow Science Centre, with alternative locations possibly being seen in Rosyth, or Leith docks. Collections would take many forms, with warships, submarines and landing craft moored nearby, and tanks, fighter planes, uniforms, medals and memorabilia housed indoors, with special galleries established for notable features and events.

It’s an ambitious project, and has rightly identified both its setup and running costs as key factors, together with its potential for sustainability. It is a particular class of museum that Scotland lacks, and even a casual tour of facilities down south will reveal a glut of related resources, both national and private.

This project deserves serious attention and support, even of only to stem the steady loss of museums and collections that Scotland has seen over the years.

The group can be contacted using this form.

Or, at:

Military Heritage Scotland

c/o GCA Architecture+Design, Kelvin House, 87 Calder Street, Coatbridge, ML5 4EY


Unfortunately, as per the message received through the comments section below, this project is no longer in existence, having been dissolved on April 2, 2010.

August 17, 2008 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Lost, military, World War I, World War II | , , , | 27 Comments

Morrisons supermarket takes museum initiative

A new Morrisons supermarket in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, has provided the space for Scotland’s newest museum in what Scotland’s heritage lottery fund manager described as a “groundbreaking step“.

The museum has been set up by Johnstone Heritage Society, with the help of a £29,100 grant from the lottery find, and is housed within a purpose built, 600 sq ft extension of the town’s new Morrisions supermarket branch, created while the building was being constructed, and donated to the museum for a nominal rent.

Located in the Napier Street supermarket, just of the town’s High Street, the museum is devoted to the town’s history, with emphasis on its textile and engineering heritage. Five volunteers will look after the collection, with craft workshops, guided tours, talks and lectures planned.

With its convenient location, it is hoped that the new museum will be popular with locals, and possibly tourists dropping into the store.

April 7, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

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