Scotland’s Urban Past

Scotland’s historic environment makes a valuable contribution to our quality of life, cultural identity, education and economy.

Organisation: Historic Environment Scotland
Project title: Scotland’s Urban Past (SUP)

SUP is a five-year nationwide community engagement project led by Historic Environment Scotland and National Lottery Heritage funded, providing free training, support and resources to people of all ages to help them discover and share the fascinating stories of Scotland’s towns and cities. We use our wide range of resources to help groups realise their projects, be it recording the places that matter to them or celebrating their heritage through creative activity. So far SUP has enabled 44 community-led projects and delivered over 350 skills workshops, involving over 5,400 people and training over 3,000 participants from Shetland to the Borders.

Case studies include:

1.     Oban, Community Bureau Project

This project brought together pupils of Rockfield Primary School, including the Gaelic Unit, and older members of the local community to combat social isolation and engage young people with their local urban heritage. Pupils were trained in oral history interviewing and filming skills to create a 15-min video on their experience.

2.     Lerwick, Archaeology Shetland

A full ground survey of a significant part of the Lerwick hinterland across North Stanley Hill was completed by SUP with Archaeology Shetland. The survey recorded evidence for both First and Second World War structures using Lidar data. The structures and earthworks are best preserved examples of a contemporary defensive system in the British Isles.

3.     Dunbar, Black Bull Project

Volunteers at The Ridge (involved in an asset transfer of the Black Bull building) worked with SUP, the HES Conservation Team and Simpson & Brown Architects on a plot containing the remains of 19th century and earlier buildings. Workshops on history and on recording the structures informed the next stage of development and upgraded the existing record on the NRHE. The trainees worked to improve their masonry skills and learn about survey and recording. They all received Heritage Hero Awards.

4.     Glasgow, West of Scotland Regional Equality Council (WSREC)

This multi-ethnic group received SUP training in research and archiving with Glasgow City Archive, survey and recording, photography, oral-history recording, and social media. Outputs will include building tours, a new record, an ESRI storymap and a booklet documenting the project process. WSREC will present the history of the Napiershall Street Centre at Glasgow Doors Open Day in September 2018.

5.     Old Oban Project

Scotland’s Urban Past’s ‘Old Oban Project’ brought together primary school students and older people to explore the town’s history. The young people creatively researched and planned oral history interviews using storyboards, photos and drone filming, before recording the older community members in English and Gaelic.

6.     Scotland’s Urban Past: Past Forward

Historic Environment Scotland’s five-year National Heritage Lottery funded programme Scotland’s Urban Past came to a conclusion in Summer 2019 with Past Forward, an exhibition showcasing the achievements of 60 Scotland-wide communities, in partnership with Soluis Heritage, Lateral North and Lucidity Media. An accompanying legacy publication was also produced offering fresh ideas to other communities on how to research, record and celebrate the places that matter to them.

Which OPiT key performance indicator is the project contributing to? Main: 10

Other: 1, 5, 6, 7, 11

Contact name: Chiara RonchiniNeil Gregory
Contact email:

Relevant web links:

Reviewed: July 2020