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More of our sites are now available to pre-book in advance of their opening later this month. We are working hard to open other sites in the coming weeks


Archives and Research

National Record of the Historic Environment

Explore a vast range of archaeological, industrial and maritime sites and buildings across Scotland, and find out how to visit our Search Room.

A view of the drawing room in Cawdor Castle, Nairn, from the 1878.

1 Overview

Find out how human activity has shaped Scotland. Our extensive archive spans a vast range of buildings, archaeological monuments and industrial and maritime sites, to give an unparalleled view of Scotland’s past.

The collection has been the work of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) since 1908. Today, it holds more than 5 million items and continues to record all aspects of the historic environment.

Scotland’s records cover:

  • archaeology – records of excavations, surveys and research into human activity from the Mesolithic era to the present day
  • architecture – records and images of our monuments and buildings, including their design, construction and evolution
  • industrial sites – records of industrial buildings and processes and their impact on Scotland’s historic environment
  • maritime – records relating to Scotland’s marine historic environment, including shipwrecks

Explore online

Canmore is the online catalogue of the National Record of the Historic Environment. It holds detailed information and archive images for more than 300,000 places in Scotland.

Search Canmore now

Carry out simple, advanced or map searches for:

  • information about a particular building or site
  • recent and historic images held in our archives
  • digital images to view and download
  • information about named archive collections
  • photographs, drawings, books, journals and maps held in our Search Room
  • distribution maps of specific site types

You can also:

  • explore themed galleries of images – and create your own
  • read digital publications online
  • share information and images you hold for specific places via MyCanmore
  • buy images

2 Visit our Search Room

You are welcome to visit our Search Room at John Sinclair House, Edinburgh to consult the National Record of the Historic Environment. Visitors are encouraged to make an appointment. Staff are on hand to help you during your visit.

Search Canmore to see what we hold before you visit.

Items available on open access:

  • 700,000 photographic prints
  • 40,000 library books
  • journals and periodicals

Contact us two working days before your visit if you wish to consult stored collection items such as architects’ drawings, historic photographs or excavation archives. Alternatively, you can request up to five items from our stores on the day. Items are retrieved twice a day, at 11am and 2pm.

We provide a range of copying facilities in the Search Room and permit self-copying (cameras or phones) of certain material. We can also offer high quality digitisation and printing.

You must make an appointment if you wish to consult the National Collection of Aerial Photography.

Download the Search Room terms and conditions [PDF, 474KB]

3 Opening hours and access


Monday, pre-booked group visits only
Tuesday to Friday, 9.30am to 4.30pm


Saturday and Sunday
Good Friday
Easter Monday
St Andrews Day
23 December 2019 - 6 January 2020

Adverse weather or other reasons beyond our control may cause a site to close at short notice. Before you travel, you can view current unexpected closures.


Our Search Room is accessible for visitors with disabilities, and car parking is available at the rear of the building.

Group visits

Large groups of up to 25 people may visit on Monday, when the Search Room is open for pre-booked group visits. Smaller groups of up to 14 people can visit during normal opening hours from Tuesday to Friday.

Group visits last about 1.5 hours and are free of charge.

Your group visit will include:

  • an introduction to our work and to those of our collections that relate to your area or subject of research
  • a tour of the Search Room and Print Room
  • a demonstration of our online resources

We give talks and lectures to societies and groups on our work and on specific subjects. We also produce travelling exhibitions, many of which we can lend for display at local venues.

4 Contact

If you have any enquiries, please get in touch.

Search Room
Historic Environment Scotland
John Sinclair House
16 Bernard Terrace

Telephone: 0131 662 1456