Cataloguing the Livingston collections

At the beginning of 2012, West Lothian Council Archives were successful in a bid for a £42,858 grant from the National Cataloguing Grants Program. The grant was awarded to enable the Archives to appoint a Project Archivist who could catalogue the records of the Livingston Development Corporation and five other collections that concerned Livingston, produce an online catalogue, and write a summary guide. My name is Aidan Haley I am the archivist that was appointed to work on the Livingston collections. I started the 18 month project back at the beginning of July and am now almost a quarter of the way through my time here.

The six collections that I have been working with are:

1)  The records of the Livingston Development Corporation, the body responsible for developing Livingston’s economic, housing and community facilities from 1962 until 1996. This is our most comprehensive collection, comprising some 25,000 items.

2) The papers of the Reverend Dr James Maitland, who was, in 1966, inducted as the first Church of Scotland Minister in the Livingston Ecumenical Experiment. The ‘experiment’ brought together the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Congregational Church (now the United Reform Church)and, later, the Methodists, in collaboration in the running of the Livingston Ecumenical Parish.

3) A selection of papers from Tam Dalyell MP, who represented Livingston as part of his West Lothian constituency, from 1963-1983. The papers we hold relate to issues that affected West Lothian.

4) The papers of Craigsfarm which became, in 1967, the first community centre in Livingston. Craigsfarm was the hub of community activity in the early years of Livingston’s growth and in 1973 was instrumental in forming the first Community Council in Scotland.

5) The papers of the Livingston Players, a community theatre group that performed its first play in 1970.

6) Papers of Community Councils of West Lothian which have been, from 1975, the most local tier of government in Scotland. (Livingston jumped the gun and had their own Community Council two years prior to this legislation coming into force.)

The idea behind choosing these six collections was that between them they provide a balanced overview of the development of Livingston across the fifty years of its existence, from its roots in three small villages with a population of around 2,000, to the largest town in the Lothians outside of Edinburgh. The information available within these collections covers the planning, architecture, demographics, politics, religion, culture, education and community development of Livingston; as well as its economic, social and environmental history. The records include official documentation, ranging from the Charter of the Livingston Development Corporation to internal office memos; technical maps, plans and drawings to minutes of meetings with community groups; there is also a wealth of photographs, around six thousand in total. These records are comprehensive in how they show why and how Livingston was built.

Outside of the Development Corporation records there is also personal material, such as the preparatory notes made by Reverend Doctor James Maitland when he started writing his book on Livingston. These notes include his memories of Livingston in its very early days – when there were less than a few thousand people living in Craigshill. Because we have this personal material, the collections contain both the ‘official’ history of Livingston as seen in the records of the Corporation that built it, but also the voices of the people who moved here, and sought to build a complete community where none had existed before.

Although Livingston has only just passed its fiftieth birthday, it has a rich and vibrant heritage. By cataloguing these collections the ultimate aim is to enable researchers, of any type, to locate and use information that interests them as easily and efficiently as possible, opening Livingston’s heritage to all.


Edinburgh’s Top 12 Treasures

Dean of Guild Court Plan: Waverley Station Hotel, 1897

Dean of Guild Court Plan: Waverley Station Hotel, 1897

Edinburgh City Archives’ small, dedicated team of archivist’s have recently taken their outreach strategy another small, but visually interesting step forward.  The ECA’s web presence has been steadily developing over the last few years not only by means of this blog but also via the Council’s own website.  Within this last week our ‘Top 12 Treasures’ exhibition has been launched in the Archives’ pages of the Edinburgh Council website.

These include notes and images of some of our collections such as those of the Town Council minutes (the earliest of which dates back to 1456 and a continuous series from the 1550s onwards), Dean of Guild Court plans and minutes (modern day Building Control), Edinburgh Police records and some Edinburgh Episcopalian Church records to name but a few. One of the many Dean of Guild Court plans we hold – an elevation of the original Waverley Station Hotel – is featured left.  This imposing building, now called “The Balmoral Hotel” still stands as a distinctive landmark on the corner of North Bridge and Princes Street today.

Although some of our ‘Top 12’ collections have already been featured in this blog, there are others which have not yet had the Lothian Lives spotlight turned on them.  Over the coming months, therefore, we will be focussing on some of  ECA’s “treasured” archival collections and explaining a little more about what’s in them.

Army Attestation Register 1806

Army Attestation Register 1806

An image from one more of these collections is shown above, this being a page from an Army Attestation register of the early 19th century.  To find out just a little more now about this  series of records you can visit Edinburgh City Archives homepage now – from that page just click on the blue highlighted link to go to the gallery.  Alternatively, just keep checking the blog over the coming months for more coverage of the Top 12!