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HISTORICAL RESEARCH

Research and Presentation Services

  • clear, attractive and accessible written material and illustrations for publications: books, articles, guidebooks, leaflets, reviews, online, display/interpretation panels, technical and policy guidance

  • background material for Conservation Planning

  • house, building, garden histories for private or academic interest

  • film/tv historical accuracy and authenticity

  • heritage training

  • talks, tours and lectures

Why research?

Historic buildings and places often comprise many layers of history and alteration. Different layers may have different types of significance. Understanding the history of a building and how it has developed can simply satisfy curiosity, but it can also help in conserving and managing the place for the enjoyment of future generations (see Conservation Planning).

What Research?

Research into  buildings and places can include many aspects of their history, including:

  • function/purpose

  • ownership/occupation/social history

  • design

  • construction/materials

  • associated collections of artworks or artefacts

Resources for research

The primary source for research is the building or place itself. Careful study on site can reveal interesting details, such as practical reasons for location or orientation of the building or subtle later alterations. Archives, libraries and the web provide supplementary documentary information through historic mapping, plans and drawings, documents (financial accounts, letters etc.), paintings, photographs, newspapers, journals and books.

Example 1 - books

In 2015 the University of Edinburgh commissioned the highly-illustrated book 'Building Knowledge - An Architectural History of the University of Edinburgh' as the first publication to chart the development of the University's large and complex estate from its foundation in 1582 to the present day. Apart from the University's own archives, museums and collections, the research drew on documetary materials from the National Library of Scotland Map Library, the Edinburgh Room of Edinburgh Central Library, Edinburgh City Archives, the National Galleries of Scotland, the National Records of Scotland, the Record of the Historic Environment of Scotland, the National Museums of Scotland, the British Library, London Metropolitan Archives, the Royal Institute of British Architects Library, and the Soane Museum.

Example 2 - historical report

The history of a tenement in Edinburgh's Candlemaker Row was commissioned by a private resident interested in the design and development of the place where he lived. Unexpectedly, the building turned out to have been the scene of a grisly crime in the late 19th century.