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Alan Borthwick, Scottish Archive Network project

The work of the Scottish Archive Network'

The Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) is a Heritage Lottery Fund funded project, set up in 1999 with the intention of opening up access to the contents of Scotland’s archives using the Internet.  The current phase of SCAN’s work will come to an end in late 2003.

At the time of writing, the SCAN website at has been operating for 2½ years and is about to undergo a major redesign to accommodate a searchable index to the collection-level catalogues of over 50 Scottish archives, including the National Archives of Scotland (whose contents include the archives of pre- and post-Union of the Crowns government in Scotland, including the files of the government departments which contain material about civil service scientists and government committees, a staple of late 20th-century life), the National Library of Scotland, local authority archives, university archives, and special repositories, such as the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. In addition to the collection-level descriptions, there are several parts of the SCAN website which researchers find useful. The SCAN Directory provides up-to-date contact details for archives in Scotland. In a part of the site called the Virtual Vault, some digital copies and transcriptions of records are available free of charge. In Research Tools there are a glossary of legal terms found in Scottish records, a knowledge base of answers to frequently asked questions, and other resources. There is a Gazetteer which informs users about the pre-1975 counties, parishes and burghs: the administrative units into which Scotland was divided for most of its history.

Collection Level Descriptions

The Scottish Archive Network database of (principally) collection-level descriptions is part of a nationwide endeavour to open up archive collections to a wider audience, which was discussed by Tim Powell in his paper.  The SCAN project is different from eg the Hub or A2A in having a host of associated material which explains how, where and why records can be used.  The database’s purpose is to allow users to find out what collections exist and where they are to be found: information which hitherto has not been available in one place.  SCAN staff have created the majority of the entries, and have sought to summarise as effectively as possible the principal contents of a collection, as well as explaining something about the creator of the collection.  A collection might well comprise only one or two documents, or it could be something as large as NAS’s Court of Session records, which fills 11.5 km of shelves.

When the database (which should contain about 25,000 entries when complete) is launched later in 2003, it will allow users to search by using a free text search, by using collection references, by title, by date, and by specific participating archive.  The search procedures are similar to those used on a number of other sites and will be familiar to Internet searchers.  It is hoped to extend these collection level descriptions to a more detailed level in the future.
Scottish Documents

Another core aim of the SCAN project is the digitisation of the wills and testaments of Scots from 1514 to 1901, work which would have been impossible to achieve without the help of Genealogical Society of Utah volunteer labour. The index has over half a million entries. Researchers can already access the index and images via a separate website at Searching the index is free and there is a charge of 5GBP for each document purchased online. The documents comprise high quality colour digital images of pages which appear in your Scottish Documents account directly after purchase.

The SCAN project is currently digitising other resources, expected to include Poor Law registers and Kirk Session records of the Church of Scotland, with the intention of making them accessible through the Scottish Documents website in future.