New digital archive gives snapshot of Scotland in 1970s

Two extensive surveys of rural Scotland undertaken during the 1970s are now more accessible to the public after a project by Historic Environment Scotland to digitise their archives.

The Scottish Countryside Commission and the C-listed buildings surveys give an insight into life in Scotland during the 1970s and early 1980s. The surveyors were originally sent out to record architecture, however, the backdrop to their work is life in rural Scotland.

Between 1978 and 1981, the Countryside Commission for Scotland undertook a survey of the buildings in the Scottish landscape.

It aimed to identify traditional building character in Scotland while classifying regional and local characteristics.

Carried out by a team of fieldworkers and coordinated by Robert J Naismith, of Sir Frank Mears and Partners, the conclusions were published in ‘Buildings in the Scottish Countryside’ in 1985.

The List C Survey was commissioned after a review of C-listed buildings. Previously, all C-listed buildings had no legal protection but in 1974 a new category C(S) was created that provided some protection.

It was decided to survey the buildings which had no statutory status in order to create a record of their existence and perhaps later review their status. The buildings were surveyed by ‘vocational students’, starting in June 1975.

Both of these projects returned their objectives but inadvertently recorded a snapshot of Scottish culture in photographs.

Lesley Ferguson, Head of Archives and Engagement at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “Making these two collections available online will make them significantly more accessible to the public so that more people can enjoy them. They are like a time machine that takes us back to bell-bottoms, the Bay City Rollers and Ford Capris. Although these surveys were commissioned to document buildings, they recorded so much more.

“We would urge the public to have a look at these collections by visiting where we have created a gallery of some of our favourite images from both surveys.

“This is a fantastic introduction to the Scottish Countryside Commission and C-Listed Buildings surveys. From there, they can also search through both collections and experience this time capsule.”

The digitisation of the Scottish Countryside Commission and C-Listed buildings survey are part of a significant investment by Historic Environment Scotland over the last financial year to increase the volume of historic photographic material accessible online.