The Highland Council area in Scotland, roughly the size of Belgium, has a rich archaeological heritage. Information is recorded in the Highland Historic Environment Record (HER) and the Scotland-wide Canmore database. For historical reasons, both databases have concentrated on sites and monuments, only occasionally listing finds. It is increasingly clear that the finds information is crucial, as often this is the only indication of human activity in the past.
As part of the Highland Regional ScARF project, questionnaires have been sent to museums and archives in the Highlands asking them to supply data on key types of objects in their collections. Some museums have also been visited, with volunteers often helping to assess material. In particular, volunteers have helped inventory Dunrobin Castle Museum objects, and are currently helping catalogue material at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. Some of these museums have no digital catalogues, and only two (Historylinks and Ullapool Museum) have substantial finds from their collections online.
These visits and questionnaires have already started to identify a number of objects which were previously unknown. In addition, the National Museums of Scotland and Treasure Trove Scotland have provided information about Highland finds.
This important information clearly should be publicly available, ideally with short descriptions and photographs, but certainly at basic level with signposting to the museum/archive. The online HER is the best place to enable the information to be available for planning applications.
A new grant from the Pilgrim Trust is enabling ScARF project officer, Grace Woolmer, to devote two days a week inputting finds information into the HER. Not every Highland object can be recorded, but the focus on key items as in the questionnaire provides an essential basis on which to build. Later, when Canmore records link to the HER, this information will also be available on Canmore. It will provide a very useful research tool.