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The History of the Dictionary of Scottish Architects Project
The origins of the Dictionary of Scottish Architects (DSA) consist of a number of parallel strands of research begun more than half a century ago. In the very early 1950s Colin McWilliam and Catherine H Cruft initiated an architects' and artists' index at the National Buildings Record, a voluntary body which subsequently became the National Monuments Record at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). In Glasgow Alfred G Lochhead commenced a programme of research for his listing of buildings of special architectural and historic interest in Glasgow and Renfrewshire, and in St Andrews Dr Ronald G Cant commenced a similar regional programme out of purely academic interest. In Dundee David Walker, then a student, was encouraged to compile a guide to the architecture of that city for the Central Library there, merging his earliest researches with those of the National Buildings Record. At first he was unaware of the importance of recording precise sources, resulting in incomplete references still evident in the present database; but at an early stage he discovered that contract advertising was much more informative than the news items in local newspapers, and the older Dundee architects were generous with their time and memories. A teaching appointment in Glasgow in 1958-59 provided the opportunity to carry out a similar programme of research in that city. There long runs of the architectural journals were available to him for the first time. McWilliam introduced him to Lochhead, and they worked closely together and shared their researches until the latter's death in 1972. Lochhead had a great many contacts among the older Glasgow architects and tradesmen and the DSA is deeply indebted to him. Also researching in Glasgow at that time was Francis Worsdall whose interest in Alexander Thomson quickly extended to all Glasgow architects. Although he and Walker worked together in 1959-60 he was never willing to disclose his sources, even in his published work, and ultimately his life's work was lost in a tragic fire. Equally early in the field and initially unbeknown to Lochhead and Walker were Professor Andor Gomme, researching for what ultimately became The Architecture of Glasgow, and Professor Andrew McLaren Young, concentrating on Mackintosh, Salmon and their circle and building on the earlier researches of Professor Thomas Howarth. With both Gomme and Young, Walker was to have long-lasting working relationships with a full interchange of data.
In 1961 Walker was appointed to the Scottish Office's Historic Buildings Inspectorate under Ian G Lindsay, whose pleasure in new-found information was more than half the incentive to find it. This enabled Walker to extend his researches to north Angus, Perth and Perthshire, Clackmannan, Stirling, Falkirk, Fife, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and finally Edinburgh before his workload shifted to consent work in 1970. Initially these tranches of research were collected on a regional basis, but after Sir Howard Colvin decided to extend his Dictionary of English Architects to the Dictionary of British Architects it gradually became apparent that they represented the nucleus of a possible Dictionary of Scottish Architects, the areas in which it was weak being Highland and Moray, a deficiency remedied from the later seventies by John Gifford and Elizabeth Beaton, both of whom have contributed generously to the present project. These broad-based programmes of general research were supplemented by detailed PhD and MA dissertation research programmes on individual architects from the late 1960s, beginning with Dr Peter Savage's Lorimer. The research programme for the 'Buildings of Scotland' series, of which both Walker and Yvonne Hillyard were then part, commenced in 1971, and in the later 1970s RCAHMS began a survey of private collections of architects' papers for which Richard Emerson produced handlists for the Dick Peddie & McKay and Darley Hay collections, the latter of which has sadly been destroyed or dispersed. From the later 1970s far greater emphasis was placed on research in the listing of buildings of special architectural or historic interest and Walker's colleagues in the Historic Buildings inspectorate gradually added to the DSA as new information came to hand; Walker himself continued work on architects who either particularly interested him or were the subject of queries. Finally Professor Charles McKean, then Secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), initiated a major programme of research into the 1930s which was just in time to catch the recollections of the architects who practised in those years; he also initiated the RIAS/Landmark/Rutland Press series of architectural guides which usefully contain illustrations of what has been lost as well as what exists.
Thus was collected a very large body of data which lay outwith the scope of Sir Howard Colvin's Dictionary, known to but a few outside Historic Scotland when Walker retired in 1993. It was not indexed and, as it had grown ever larger and more difficult to search, Walker's colleagues raised a dictionary trust fund and Historic Scotland funded an IT programme to make its lists more searchable. The generosity of those who subscribed to the trust fund at that time is most gratefully acknowledged.
The initial IT programme was based at the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews, which Walker joined as an Associate, later Honorary Professor in 1994, and led to an application to the Arts and Humanities Research Board, now the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which generously funded the 1840-1940 project in 2002. At the end of the three year duration of this award, the University of St Andrews supported the consolidation and further development of the database along with a number of other trusts, foundations and businesses. Since November 2007 it has been maintained by Historic Scotland who are undertaking the further development of the database in conjunction with the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, Edinburgh College of Art. Together they will extend the period covered up to 1980.
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