Part of Historic Environment Scotland

Documentation of the Historic Environment

Dates: 07/11/18
Days of the week: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Total hours: 54
Taught hours: 36.5
On-site instruction: 16
Off-site instruction: 8


Learn how to accurately document a site – via archival research or survey – as a vital first step towards the monitoring and evaluation of its condition.

Building inspection and recording helps to establish the need for and level of intervention to repair, conserve, restore or maintain the fabric. Key decisions about the care of a structure will be made for years to come based on its accurate record.

Site survey data can be collected and stored in a wide variety of ways, from traditional still photography and measured drawings to digital laser scanning. How to select the most suitable method for a particular heritage management task is the main focus of this module.

You will examine traditional and innovative site documentation techniques, and ways to archive, manipulate and share survey data. You will also learn how to use key Scottish archives and libraries for architectural research to support conservation or repair projects.

Entry requirements

Individual modules are open to anyone with an interest in the subject matter. Applicants for the Advanced Professional Diploma should have a relevant degree or professional experience.

Classes, lectures and presentations

  • Archival Documentation
  • Principles of Surveying
  • Non-destructive Testing and Analysis
  • Photographic Surveys
  • Commissioning 3D Surveys
  • Introduction to Digital Documentation 1
  • Introduction to Digital Documentation 2
  • Processing and Managing 3D Data
  • Visualising 3D Data
  • Building Information Modelling

Potential site visits

  • Site visits to some of our current digital documentation projects
  • National Records of Scotland
  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Map Library
  • Historic Environment Scotland, John Sinclair House, Edinburgh
  • Mitchell Library, Glasgow


Survey principles

  • Role of documentation in conservation process
  • Overview of surveying techniques, from hand surveys to laser scanning
  • Understanding the site, conditions, budgets and practical requirements
  • Surveying, and analysis of findings
  • Use, management and sharing of digital survey records
  • Researching existing building records – e.g. libraries, archives, museums, online

Site investigation and testing using sampling and physical analysis

  • Dendrochronology
  • Impulse radar
  • Endoscopy
  • Moisture measurement
  • Ultrasonics
  • Micro-drilling
  • Fungal/insect damage investigation
  • Geological record search
  • Materials testing – e.g. British Standards Institute, Building Research Establishment and British Geological Survey

Digital documentation

  • Thermal imaging, X-ray analysis
  • Photogrammetry (structure from motion), ortho-rectified photography
  • Use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones
  • Reflectance transformation imaging
  • Structured light scanning
  • Terrestrial laser scanning – advantages over conventional surveys, tasks appropriate for laser scanning, limitations
  • Laser scanning fundamentals – instrumentation and hardware, computer hardware and software
  • Commissioning survey – from determining specification and scope, and survey outputs to archiving, retrieving and manipulating data
  • Processing point cloud and managing, reprocessing and sharing data – e.g. use of 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality