Your coverage of the Catholic bishops' plan to relocate the historical collections of the Scottish Catholic Archives at Columba House in Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Glasgow is greatly welcome ("New move in archive row", The Herald, July 20 & Letters, July 20 and 21).
The move has been determined with an extraordinary lack of consultation with the growing number of scholars who use this resource, of whom I and my students are some. Indeed, Dundee University had offered to undertake a Collaborative Doctoral Research Award with the archives.
Since the policy over the last few years has been explicitly to increase the number of users, what has happened now is very strange. It will damage the church's stated ambition to foster and encourage the understanding of the place of the Catholic Church within Scottish history.
This is an internationally important historical collection. To divide it between Glasgow and Aberdeen, and remove it from the close and useful proximity to the other national collections upon which many PhDs and other researchers rely, will have a profoundly negative effect.
To many researchers this relocation will imply more distant travel, quite probably entailing overnight stays – thus reducing the general accessibility/affordability of using the material. So this move could well stall the recent growth in Scottish Catholic historical research and its integration within broader Scottish historical research.
Nor should we forget just how pleasant Columba House was.
Its quite superb collection of books was open on the shelves of genial, well-lit and gracious rooms, available for serendipitous study in a way quite impossible nowadays in most libraries.
To close all this, and limit the interaction between broader Scottish and Catholic historical research, will put the latter back to where it used to be – on the fringe.
Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Fellow in Scottish Architectural History,
Department of History, the University of Dundee.
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