Case Study: HES Canmore Early Medieval Sculpture Upgrade Project

Case Study 30

HES Canmore Early Medieval Sculpture Upgrade Project

Iain Fraser

Records of early medieval sculpture in the online Canmore database comprise locational information, textual information derived from field survey, published and manuscript sources, and a range of archival material in both physical and digital format, including field notes, sketches, measured drawings, photography and rubbings.

Derived from many sources, the records for early medieval sculpture take a variety of forms. These range from individual site records for single stones, such as the Picardy Stone, to complex sites, such as St Vigeans and Meigle, where each individual stone is sub-numbered from a main site. In each case, each site or sub-site is linked to the appropriate archival material. In contrast to these are some sites, where a large collection of stones, such as St Andrews Cathedral Museum, is attached, undifferentiated, to a single site. This lack of standardisation forms an impediment to navigation of the record, and the retrieval of appropriate information. Equally, the text attached to sites can be of variable quality, ranging from a detailed description of a stone’s physical appearance to a lack of any text.

Aware of the shortcomings of its records, in 2012 RCAHMS (now HES) moved to set its house in order by standardising and upgrading its records for early medieval stones. The first stage comprised a comparison of Canmore with the basic listing of early medieval sculpture compiled by Mike Spearman of the NMS, with the aim of ensuring that an entry for all stones existed in the database. This involved the standardisation of individual existing site records, and the creation of new, individual records for stones where individual records did not yet exist. As of March 2016, this phase of work is 56% complete.

The second phase of the project involves the upgrade of all appropriate archival material, and its migration, where necessary, to the new individual sites records. The third phase comprises the creation of a basic, standardised, descriptive text for each stone, based upon the model of the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Sculpture, written by Anna Ritchie (see Canmore upgrade example: Case Study 4).

In parallel, field recording by RCAHMS, and now HES, continues, providing high-quality imagery: currently some 46% of stones have been recorded by side-lit photography and 75% by measured stipple drawings.

Externally generated material is also being added constantly to the record and, where possible, is digitised and made available online. Together, this digital resource can provide an information hub: this can take the form of a portal dedicated to early medieval sculpture, upon which other specialists and communities can build, adding their own specialist knowledge, resource and interpretation.