Archives and Research

National Record of the Historic Environment

Explore the online catalogue Canmore, with 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.

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

Visit us in person

Visit the home of the HES Archives and the National Record of the Historic Environment at John Sinclair House in Edinburgh.

We ask all visitors to book in advance.

Book your visit to our Search Room

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.

Explore Canmore

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

Archives House project

This is an exciting project, which will see the HES archive move to a building in Bonnyrigg that is being converted into a world-class facility. A new reading room will also be created in Longmore House. Access to John Sinclair House will continue as normal.

Find out more about the project