Uncovering our History

We have a large metal box full of papers in the office which is the APRS archive. It contains beautifully bound folios of the minutes of our meetings, and other documents of note from our early history. With the centenary coming up we have been looking into how we can explore the contents, ensure they are given to a proper archive which can look after them properly, and make some of the key documents available online for others to read. Here Kat tells the story of the serendipity which rediscovered a fascinating body of research on APRS’s history.

We’ve been exploring all avenues to work out how best to save and to document the APRS archive. With some of the documents coming up for 100 years old it is vital that they are held in a proper archive where they are catalogued and held in conditions to preserve them.

Two pieces of serendipity have brought us forward in leaps and bounds with this project. The first being an email from the Business Archives Surveying Officer for Scotland. She was working with the National Records of Scotland to specifically look into the records of organisations linked to Scotland’s outdoor economy and natural environment. The plan was to approach organisations of local and national significance, to ensure that any documentary history is safeguarded and preserved for future generations. They were interested in the APRS archive.

It was fantastic timing, just at the point that we were wondering what to do with the archive. We are fortunate that the archivist of the National Trust for Scotland had already written a catalogue of the archive when he was researching the NTS’s origins for their 75th anniversary.

Rachel Muir, the Surveying Officer, came to the office and gave us recommendations for the preservation of the archive and helped arrange an agreement with Historic Environment Scotland that they will host our archive which is great news.

The second piece of serendipity is that I was considering whether there would be merit in some academic exploration of the archive. Specifically whether there was a potential Geography PhD on how our views on landscape, sense of place and what is worth protecting has changed over time. I got in touch with Hayden Lorimer, an academic I have worked with previously on an arts PhD project, which was taken on by Hannah Imlach, at Loch Lomond when I worked for the RSPB. I figured it was the kind of project that was right up his street.

He replied with the following email:

I know APRS well. Very well as a matter of fact. Well enough indeed to know the large metal box of which you speak, and the archival materials that it contains. They and I got very acquainted in the previous millennium (c. 1994-5), when the APRS was still up the garret in Gladstone’s Land. And my doctoral thesis makes fulsome use of the material!

Indeed there’s a whole chapter tracking and tracing the story (and power relations underpinning) of the establishment and early operations of the APRS and NTS.

To my delight he added “the PhD idea you have is a quite marvellous one. So marvellous in fact that I think I’ve already done it!”

I am now ploughing my way through the contents of that PhD and I hope to post another blog with a summary of some of the key findings. There is a large section on the foundation of APRS and another on the early debates over National Parks – I think this is going to be some enjoyable research

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