The 224-year old General Register House at North Bridge is the latest historic building to be laser-scanned and digitally recorded as part of ongoing project to use technology in conservation and promotion of Scotland's heritage.
A team from Historic Scotland and Glasgow School of Art will produce a detailed 3D survey of the principal apartment, the recently restored rotunda featuring the largest dome designed by architect Robert Adam.
When combined with the original architectural drawings, building records, contemporary engravings and paint research, the digital data will enable an objective and historically accurate model of General Register House as it would have appeared when the building was completed around 1788, before Robert Reid’s addition of the north range in the 1820s and 30s, and the alterations to the screen wall of c1850 and 1890.
Keeper of the Records and Registrar General George Mackenzie said: “I am delighted to be working with Historic Scotland and Glasgow School of Art to digitally document and model this wonderful building. Innovative when it opened in 1790, it is still being used for its original purpose, which is to house our nation’s archives.”
Technology has been at the heart of Scotland's archive service for over a decade, with many people using the National Records of Scotland (NRS) to trace Scottish Family history and Scottish ancestors. The ScotlandsPeople website, run by the NRS, last year logged over 1 million registered users from across the world. The database contains 80 million records from as far back as 1513.
In 1790, following the completion of the landmark building, James Salisbury, the clerk of works, was instructed to make a detailed wooden model (now lost) of General Register House to record what had been built for maintenance purposes and as a guide to the architect’s proposals for its future extension.
The new digital survey is expected to perform similar functions with the advantages of 21st century technology.
World Heritage Site Meets New Tech
Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns World Heritage Site is being digitally recorded as part of a project to scan all of Scotland’s UNESCO-recognised sites as well as five international sites as part of the Scottish Ten project.
Last year the Scottish Ten team – a partnership between Historic Scotland and the Digital Documentation Studio at Glasgow School of Art – worked with the Archaeological Survey of India to scan the Rani ki Vav stepwell near Gujarat.
The Scottish Ten initiative shows how a digital archive and visualisation technology can help conserve sites and provide virtual access to inaccessible sites.
The first international heritage site to be scanned was Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and that data has been developed into a virtual tour by the National Park Service of America.
Cabinet Secretary for Culture Fiona Hyslop said that as well as an "enduring record" of our historic sites, the digital survey will offer the opportunity for virtual models for educational or promotional work.