National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Maps and Plans Policy

Maps and Plans Policy

National Records of Scotland (NRS) policy and statement of principles on the selection and acquisition of maps, plans, architectural and technical drawings

1. Introduction
  • 1.1 This policy has been approved by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland. It supports that part of the National Records of Scotland’s mission statement which says that “We collect, preserve and produce information about Scotland’s people and history and make it available to inform present and future generations.”
  • 1.2 ‘Record’ means anything in which information is recorded in any form and so covers electronic records, records in microform and other types of specialised media, as well as paper and parchment records.
  • 1.3 The NRS maps and plans collections are amongst the finest in the UK and contain the best corpus of Scottish manuscript maps and plans held by any institution. The scope of the collections covers both manuscript and printed topographical maps and plans, with particular strengths in estate plans and railway plans; architectural drawings; topographical and geological maps and drawings relating to coal mining in Scotland; and engineering drawings, principally of ships, railway engines and rolling stock.
  • 1.4 The practice of maintaining a separate, albeit artificial, series of plans and drawings for the purposes of storage and cataloguing started in the 1960s.  This series is known as the Register House Plans (RHP) series.
  • 1.5 Maps, plans, architectural and technical drawings generally come to NRS in two ways; first, acquired as an integrated part of a larger archive, and second as entirely separate acquisitions. The maps and plans which are an integral part of a larger archive may be physically integrated to the extent they are bundled together with documents to which they relate, or they may be physically separate (mainly due to their size and format) whilst intellectually an integral part of the larger archive.
  • 1.6 As many of the maps and plans constitute parts of larger archives, the NRS selection policies on government, private and court and legal records have a significant role to play in determining which series of maps and plans are selected and acquired by NRS.  The collection themes set out in those policies, to a significant extent, form the framework for selecting maps and plans.
  • 1.7 Maps and plans which are selected and acquired independently of other parts of an archive may be acquired by purchase, deposit, gift or simply be part of the archive of a government body or court, which is being appraised separately.
2. General principles
  • 2.1 The principal aim of future acquisitions of maps and plans will be to complement the existing holdings of NRS in relation to the areas of strength set out at paragraph 1.3 above.
  • 2.2 Where NRS acquires archives from a particular organisation, family or business we will also acquire the maps, plans and drawings in that archive. This recognises the general archival principle of respect des fonds, the professional ethic that requires archivists to maintain the integrity of a collection of records, even if its various sections relate to different geographical or subject areas.
  • 2.3 As part of our general collecting policy, the NRS will liaise with other repositories, whether national, university, local or other. We shall take into account, where appropriate, their known collecting policies in all cases where interests appear to overlap and shall try to avoid competing claims.
  • 2.4 Where maps and plans are acquired independently of the complete archive of an organisation, family or business:
    • 2.4.1 The emphasis in relation to topographical plans will be on manuscript in preference to printed or published maps. 
    • 2.4.2 The emphasis in relation to architectural drawings will be on drawings of government buildings in Scotland (whether produced by government in Scotland or by UK government bodies) which form part of that government body’s archive. Architectural drawings created by private architectural practices and forming part of their archives are outwith the scope of this policy.

3. Copies of maps and plans held privately
  • 3.1 From time to time NRS will seek to acquire copies of maps and plans for which the originals remain in private custody and ownership. Principally these copies are provided for ease of access and the acquisition of such copies will follow the principle set out at 2.1 above.  In the short term the emphasis in providing such copies will be on replacing photostat copies which already exist within the Register House Plans series with more up-to-date digital copies.

4. Objects, models and samples
  • 4.1 When selecting maps and plans it is common to encounter objects (surveying or mining instruments), models (physical architectural models) and samples (interior decor and geological samples). NRS will consider depositing these objects, models and samples in a more appropriate institution or repository. This may be done under the Charge and Superintendence of the Keeper of the Records of Scotland.

5. Development of this policy
  • 5.1 In general, if a major collection of maps and plans is being considered for selection and acquisition by NRS that involves a significant physical quantity of records, or where there is debate about historical importance, advice can be sought from the NRS Records and Archives Board. It will also be open to NRS, with appropriate safeguards for confidentiality, to take advice from third parties (e.g. academics, experienced researchers) as to the significance of particular collections offered to us.
  • 5.2 This policy will be reviewed every five years.

Laura M Mitchell
Deputy Keeper of the Records of Scotland
25 March 2014