5.4 Research recommendations

See also Section 2 for background to these research recommendations.

5.4.1 Principles

  1. Embed a holistic understanding of the values and significance of carved stones into practices to protect them, following international conservation policies.
  2. Engender greater common purpose among the range of communities with an interest in protecting carved stones by seeking to understand and address their perspectives and issues for them at both individual casework and strategic levels.

5.4.2 Problems

  1. Limited ability to create strategies to protect carved stones in the absence of an overview of the resource supported by more detailed records that identifies and assesses the significance of current condition and the risks to carved stones (Section 5.2.4)
  2. The fragmented environment for protection (i.e. owners, stewards, curators, funders) leads to a lack of clarity over ownership and management responsibilities meaning that the protection of carved stones in practice can fall into the gaps between of different bodies' remit (Sections 5.2.1, 5.3.2, 5.3.4)
  3. Addressing what is out of sight: this means recognising and prioritising the needs of carved stones at risk that are generally inaccessible (Section 5.3.5), as well as recognising and prioritising the latent social values placed on carved stones (Sections 5.2.1, 5.3.2).
  4. Considerable bodies of data, research and analysis are unpublished, uncollated, and therefore potentially inaccessible to all but heritage managers (Section 5.2.4).
  5. Getting the outcomes of valuable day-to-day management and research fed into longer-term research projects (Sections 5.2.35.2.4).
  6. Maximising community stewardship while acknowledging there is a gap between what volunteers and specialists can offer in terms of technical and scientific conservation (Sections 5.2.1 5.2.35.2.4).
  7. Expanding the availability of specialist advice and expertise, including knowledge from different disciplines but also skills and expertise gain through practical experience of management and repairs (e.g. crafts people, cemetery managers, museum curators, property managers) (Section 5.2.35.2.4).

5.4.3 Practice

  1. Prioritise loose and vulnerable stones; stones associated with past and present ecclesiastical sites as well as other burial sites (Sections 5.3.3 5.3.4).
  2. Build on rock-art conservation and management research elsewhere in Britain and Europe (Section 5.3.5).
  3. Factor in carved stone/replica materiality, biography and landscape context (Sections 5.2.1, 5.3.1 5.3.2).
  4. Adopt reflective practices—forward-looking and retrospective—that acknowledge and consider the intersection of value, authenticity and materiality (Sections 5.2.15.3.1 5.3.2).
  5. Recognise the value of understanding the history of protection practices on a case-by-case and more strategic level (Section 5.2.4 5.3.2).
  6. Optimise use of scientific and digital technologies (Sections 5.2.4 5.3.2).
  7. Support projects that include or focus on active community involvement (Sections 5.2.15.2.4 5.3.2).
  8. Ensure research is published in peer-reviewed journals (Section  5.3.2).
  9. Avoid reinventing the wheel by making better use of existing research (Sections  5.2.3 5.3.4).
  10. Develop refreshed/new policy and guidance for carved stones. This should include:
  • a. Advice for local churches to set out procedures for formalised de-accession, covering the steps for the parish to take, as well as for new owners and subsequent purchasers of de-accessioned churches and manses with carved stones (Section 5.2.2).
  • b. Advice on the criteria and method of evaluation for decision making for the most common scenarios to protect stones e.g. using shelters, including re-roofing of ruins (Sections 5.2.45.3.1).
  • c. Assess the degree and impact of arbitrariness within conservation approaches, for example, when to remove stones, and the concerns, views and requirements of audience (Sections 5.2.15.3.1 5.3.2).
  • d. Consider whether the Treasure Trove process offers opportunities for a conservation assessment (Section 5.2.2).

5.4.4 Projects: enhancing existing

  1. Produce a series of rich case studies on groups of carved stones and sites known to be particularly vulnerable within current management (e.g. loose and vulnerable; graveyards; inaccessible sites). Carry out research to establish the nature of incremental changes to curation trends. Use this information to identify main issues and to suggest strategies to resolve them, including priorities to protect and display stones both in situ and new relocations (Sections 5.2.4 5.3.3 5.3.45.3.5).
  2. Investigate the impact of poor practice of groundkeepers, tourists and other unintentional human damage, including how they perceive threats to carved stones including their own impact. This should include a skills audit of those working with or responsible for carved stones (including recorders, tour guides, managers, owners etc.). Scope out the main issues and suggest strategies to resolve them (including strategies for audience development) (Section 5.2.35.2.45.3.1).
  3. Build up an evidence base to investigate the connection between protection, policy and the law. Research should explore practices in other countries and consider how to best deploy information to users. This should demonstrate through mapping different scenarios, as well as case studies, what the results will be for carved stones (and loose and vulnerable stones in particular) if current curatorial issues are not resolved. The study should: 
  • a. Review the approaches taken in other countries whose legal systems are also predicated on bona vacantia to advocate for best practice. Research should clearly set out the limitations of the law to fulfil protection functions and where opportunities exist to improve enforcement (Section 5.2.2).
  • b. Quantify evidence for policy-making to assess the scope for good practice in conservation management to be enforced through new burial legislation (Section 5.2.2).
  • c. Assess the scope for reforming the duty of reporting of archaeological finds, as set out in the Civic Government (Scotland) Act S 67 to strengthen protection for carved stones (Section 5.2.2).
  • d. Assess how the Treasure Trove Code of Practice is communicated to and understood by heritage managers and the wider public to identify any opportunities to improve its effectiveness in practice, including a strategy for implementation (Section 5.2.2).
  • e. Review the approaches taken in other countries in respect of international best practice that has already crystallised e.g. the Burra Charter (Australia ICOMOS 2013) (Section 5.2.3).

 

5.4.5 Projects: new approaches

  1. Produce a series of rich case studies that reflect on how authenticity is experienced in relation to carved stones (both as monuments and fragments) and in relation to replicas (analogue and digital). Apply findings to identify strategies to improve the protection and stewardship of carved stones both in situ and in new relocations and, at the same time, enhance access to and engagement with the resource (Sections 5.2.15.3.1 5.3.2). 
  2. Undertake foresight research, to identify long-term trends in potential threats and opportunities in relation to carved stones. For example, consider the ongoing impact of the transfer of Church of Scotland land to private ownership. Use findings to advocate to strengthen guidance, and where feasible, the legislative framework (Sections 5.2.15.2.2).
  3. Undertake a programme of on-the-ground investigation of graveyards likely to have early historic foundation through unobtrusive means to help clarify their origin with the aim of improving their protection by cemetery managers (especially in advance of grave reuse) (Sections 5.2.2 5.3.4).
  4. Develop a strategy to identify significant stones that are under threat before deterioration happens. This might involve, for example, risk assessment using details of stone construction and form to identify areas more susceptible to damage and decay, or risks associated by types of ownership (Sections 5.2.45.3.1).