3.8 Research recommendations

(N.B. the order of the following recommendations is not meant to imply an order of priority or importance)

See also Section 2 for background to these research recommendations.

3.8.1 Principles

  1. Align recording campaigns to support research on specific themes/bodies of material (Section 3.3, Section 3.7).
  2. Take full advantage of any opportunities arising from the (re-)display of stones to record and analyse (Section 3.7).
  3. As a matter of course if something is going to be scanned, what research questions might be asked of it? (Section 3.3.2Section 3.7)
  4. Develop an agreed terminology and taxonomy to describe, recognise and group carved stones for each period (Section 3.4.1).
  5. Research traditional names, folk practices, traditions, and stories associated with stones (Section 3.2.3, Section 3.4.2).
  6. Do not neglect fragments (Section 3.2.3Section 3.3).
  7. Improve data management and access (Section 3.3.2, Section 3.5, Section 3.7.1).
  8. Make data sets and research results openly and freely available, preferably via the web (Sections 3.3.2, Section 3.5.4, Section 3.7Section 6.2.8).
  9. Focus on the future development and use of non-destructive and non-invasive methods (Section 3.6).
  10. Investigate the impact of carved stone studies on research, teaching and conservation communities (Section 3.2.1, Section 3.3Section 3.7).
  11. Acknowledge that recording cannot be separated from analysis (Section 3.2).
  12. Recognise the value of established discipline-based methodologies and continue to pursue these where appropriate (Section 3.2).
  13. Fully utilize new analytical frameworks (Section 3.2.2Section 3.2.3, Section 3.2.4).
  14. Improve understanding of stone-working techniques through: historical and ethnographic study of stone carving, physical analysis of worked stone and creative experimental carving techniques (Section 3.2.3Section 3.7.2).
  15. Understand who was producing carved stones and how this was achieved (social and logistical aspects as well as technical, i.e. procurement and transport of stone, organization of work and training, relationship between carvers and commissioners, etc.) (Section 3.2.3).

3.8.2 Problems

  1. Lack of awareness of potential of carved stones to address existing research questions and to help frame new ones (Section 3.2).
  2. Lack of communication between research, teaching and conservation communities (Section 3.7).
  3. Availability of scientific data: lack of central record of what scientific analysis has been conducted and where to access results (Section 3.6 Section 3.5Section 3.7).
  4. Lack of central record of what digital recording has been conducted and where to access records (Section 3.3.2 Section 3.5Section 3.7).
  5. Limited accessibility of scan data. The problems are both technical (software compatibility, stability of data, format), and institutional (lack of sharing) (Section 3.3.2 Section 3.5Section 3.7).
  6. Lack of uptake of new theoretical approaches available to frame new research questions (Section 3.2).
  7. Lack of broader awareness of technical knowledge built up over the last 20 years and of the potential of technology to help answer research questions (Section 3.3.2 Section 3.5Section 3.6Section 3.7).
  8. Lack of interdisciplinary working within academic community (Section 3.7.2).
  9. Difficulties in engaging more fully with the diversity of existing communities outside Academia to ensure the most fruitful interdisciplinary collaboration (Section 3.7.2).
  10. Scale of resource. Some categories of carved stone are so numerous that comprehensive recording initiatives are unfeasible. How then to prioritize? How to ensure consistency of data/approach if recording is done piecemeal? How to ensure that records can be made available? (Section 3.3 Section 3.5)
  11. Lack of alignment between conservation- and heritage-led research (which may be very case-specific, and funded and conducted on much shorter time scales) and more strategic research agendas (Section 3.6, Section 3.7.1Section 3.7.2).
  12. Lack of awareness of collaborative opportunities between researchers using the same datasets/or researching similar themes in relation to different data sets (Section 3.7.2).
  13. Recording biases–some categories of carved stones are well recorded, others overlooked; cut off dates, geographical restrictions including national boundaries (Section 3.3).
  14. Recording driven by technological developments rather than research needs (Section 3.3Section 3.6).

3.8.3 Practice

  1. Conduct research into the biographies of stones using the physical evidence of later interventions and through references to stones in historical records (Section 3.2.3).
  2. Respect traditional names for stones, where these exist (Section 3.4.2).
  3. Increase awareness of Scotland's heritage of carved stone in art education (i.e. art schools) to encourage creative responses (not replication and conservation) (Section 3.7.2).
  4. Develop integrated digital records that directly incorporate and/or directly reference other important datasets, technical, social, value, historic records etc. (Section 3.5.4, Section 3.7.3).
  5. Establish a forum for a meeting place between different disciplines and experts in different periods (Section 3.7).
  6. As with digital recording, there is a strong perception that a national data archive comprising the nature, location and results of scientific investigations would be an extremely beneficial touch (Section 3.5).
  7. To this end create a central corpus with Building Information Modelling (BIM) characteristics suitable for cross-disciplinary data sharing. This should integrate scientific data, 3D recording, 3D/moving images. Link with theorising visualisation and other monument and site information mapping. Test the design to ensure it can support analysis of research questions identified in ScARF (Section 3.5Section 3.7).
  8. Record fully before (re-)display (e.g. by photographing/scanning the back/underside of stones or portions obscured by display) (Section 3.3Section 3.7).
  9. Conduct scientific analysis before (re-)display (e.g. take samples at point of restoration/conservation) (Section 3.6Section 3.7).
  10. Maintain up-to-date bibliography of new publications relating to carved stones (Section 3.2Section 3.6).
  11. Compile bibliographies of past work on subsets of carved stones (fill in gaps) (Section 3.2.1).
  12. Encourage Open Access publishing (Sections 3.3.2, Section 3.5.4Section 3.7Section 6.2.8).
  13. Increase access to grey literature (Section 3.2.1Section 3.5.1Section 3.5.2Section 3.5.3Section 3.7Section 6.2.8).
  14. Remove charges for academic use of Canmore images (Section 3.5.4, Section 3.7.1Section 6.2.8).
  15. Ensure Scottish material is considered in its wider geographic context (Section 3.2).
  16. Develop a strategy to use scientific and technological techniques to deliver information about (Section 3.2.2Section 3.2.3Section 3.2.4Section 3.6): 
  • a. the stone carver and possibly the place of work 
  • b. their support workers and clients 
  • c. the character of tools used 
  • d. procuring and movement of stone 
  • e. the stone's condition from time of carving, as it changes through its lifespan, and condition of it now at the surface and internally—both important for preserving and presenting.

3.8.4 Projects: enhancing existing

  1. Recognise and develop the different scales of analysis that digital technologies can contribute to: carvings (e.g. details of inscriptions), monuments (nature and materiality of the whole monument and its carvings), and landscape (e.g. 'reinstating' carved stones in their landscape phenomenological potential, etc. (Section 3.3.2, Section 3.2).
  2. Review existing scanned material and identify its research potential (including review of process histories, 'capturing' some of existing creative responses) (Section 3.3.2).
  3. Carry out a pilot project to assess options to improve data-recording methods to join up data sets across time and space (Section 3.3).
  4. Exploit the significant opportunity with regards to the scientific study of existing preserved collections of fragments, samples, etc. (Section 3.6).
  5. Assess how to improve Canmore's search capabilities (for example introduce increased labelling, additional search engine terms and tagged images) (Section 3.5.4, Section 3.4).
  6. Assess Canmore's potential to improve its capacity to act as an umbrella site with other datasets in order to link carved stones records to other types of data such as architectural, place names, landscape and local history. There should be dual development with HERs and issues should be flagged to Scotland's Historic Environment Data (SHED) forum to incorporate in their strategy to increase access and contextualisation of information (Section 3.5.4Section 3.7.2).
  7. Create a digital handlist for carved stones of the early medieval period and use it to perform an audit of the resource, identifying lost or misplaced stones, and assessing the nature and level of risk to each stone (Section 3.5.1).
  8. Create a digital handlist for carved stones of the later medieval period (to include updating existing handlist of medieval effigies) and use it to perform an audit of the resource, identifying lost or misplaced stones, and assessing the nature and level of risk to each stone (Section 3.5.1).
  9. Through a pilot project, test the strength of existing information and identify gaps in knowledge needing to be filled by an audit of the ecclesiastical carved stone resource in Scotland (Section 3.5.3).
  10. Assess how carved stones are presently being managed (e.g. owners, managers, condition, risk, location, maintenance regimes, previous repairs and preservation) (Section 3.2.3, Section 3.5.3Section 3.6).
  11. On the basis of the above (7–10), develop more strategic (and research-based) policies for safeguarding stones (Section 3.5.3).
  12. Develop a recording strategy for use by a range of groups (including the public and those lacking subject knowledge) to document different types of ecclesiastical carved stones. This should lead to action on the ground and must reflect current understanding of carved stones but also enable new appreciations to be developed. This would aim to enhance recording practices to standardize and formalize data capture and management and to identify and share good practice (Section 3.3 Section 3.5).
  13. Digitize back issues of Pictish Arts Society Journal and Newsletter, similarly with 'ephemeral' publications of other special interest groups (Section 3.2.1Section 3.7Section 6.2.8).
  14. Conduct an audit of any squeezes still in existence in museums or other collections in Scotland and beyond (bearing in mind practices of collaboration between learned societies, it is possible that some might exist furth of Scotland) (Section 3.3.1).
  15. Assess why there is a lack of (early medieval) research questions—are these not being asked because data is not available to frame them? But is data not available because the research community is not indicating this is what they want to know? (Section 3.2).

3.8.5 Projects: new approaches

  1. Create a digital/print corpus of all early medieval carved stones from Scotland (a 21st-century equivalent to ECMS) (All of Section 3).
  2. Develop and apply methods of chemical testing to identify if stones have been submerged in water (implications for procurement and transportation) (Section 3.6).
  3. Investigate patterns of loss as evident through modelling destructive agencies to assess whether due to human or environmental agency. It is particularly important for assessment of human agency to have a link with understanding values. For example, the issue of graffiti is not just–and not always–a destructive act and in either case forms part of a stone's biography (Section 3.2.3Section 3.6).
  4. Scan all incised (i.e. non-relief) early medieval monuments—including Pictish Class I and 'Class IV' crosses and inscriptions—with a view to conducting groove analysis (through applying statistical methods to high resolution digital surface records) in order to identify different carving techniques, the work of individual carvers, etc.) (Section 3.3.2).
  5. Use of experimental carving to answer questions that tie directly to the potential for surface analysis based on digital recording as well as new questions about tool use and tool marks (Section 3.2.3, Section 3.3.3).
  6. Exploit the phenomenological potential of digital records more fully, to investigate the nature and materiality of the whole monument and its carvings and 'reinstating' carved stones in their landscape, etc. (Section 3.3.2).
  7. Investigate the capacity for technology to assist with edge enhancement ('wind back' weathering) recognising inscriptions and profile analysis (Section 3.3.2).
  8. Investigate what the physical form of fractured/damaged surfaces can reveal about cause and date of damage (Section 3.2.2Section 3.6).
  9. Conduct chemical testing to identify if stones have been submerged in water during their life-time (for what this tells about procurement and transportation) (Section 3.2.3Section 3.6).
  10. Explore the engineering of erection/re-erection using experiential craftworking (Section 3.2).
  11. Explore the use of templates in carving ornament, on single monuments and between different monuments (Section 3.2).
  12. Explore the transportation of stones using experiential craftworking (Section 3.2).
  13. Utilize the newly digitized evidence from medieval charters (POMS database) to identify references to stones (extant and lost) and make the information available via central or linked database (also other medieval sources such as hagiographies now available digitally) (Section 3.2Section 3.7.2).
  14. Explore theme of memory, landscape and monuments using historic literary descriptions of moving through the landscape (Section 3.2).
  15. Investigate the work of Scots-born stone carvers abroad (Section 3.3).
  16. Investigate memorials to Scots abroad (e.g. Scottish cemetery, Kolkata; Gaelic gravestones in Nova Scotia) (Section 3.3).
  17. Investigate vocabulary relating to (carved) stones in Gaelic and in Scots, including place names (Section 3.2.3, Section 3.4.2).
  18. Investigate how ogham stones functioned as markers of memory, power and territoriality (also themes of inheritance and ancestors) (Section 3.2).
  19. Reassess current digital data and applications such as rich intelligence modelling. Review existing scanned material and identify its research potential (Sections 3.3.2). For example: 
  • a. establishing if drawings can be generated from scans
  • b. reviewing process histories
  • c. 'capturing' some of the existing creative responses
  • d. obtaining better readings of inscriptions and other key imagery in conjunction with historic plaster casts, etc.