Climate change is presenting organisations, such as Historic Environment Scotland (HES), with new and unprecedented challenges in the care and protection of important historic sites and places. HES looks after over 300 of Scotland’s historic monuments, from Tantallon Castle in East Lothian to Skara Brae in Orkney and last year welcomed more than 5.2 million visitors to its staffed properties. HES estimates that a further seven million people visited its unstaffed properties – sites that are free of charge to visit at any time.
Welcoming this number of visitors presents both challenges and opportunities in the conservation of these heritage sites. The body’s Monument Conservation Team looks after its Properties in Care –  however, with more than 300 of these, the team has to rotate visits to each site. Monitoring long-term trends of the condition of these monuments can also be challenging, which is why HES is calling on its visitors to get involved.   
Monument Monitor is a collaborative research project between HES and University College London which aims to assess to what extent visitors’ photographs of heritage sites can be used to inform conservation and monitoring efforts.
Over the next two years this project will run at 20 different historic sites across Scotland: there will be signs at the sites asking visitors to take photographs of specific items and to then submit them via email, WhatsApp, or using the hashtag #MonumentMonitor on Twitter or Instagram.
This will help HES establish how it can use visitors’ photographs to monitor the long-term issues affecting each site. It will be looking at exactly what can be confidently measured using visitors’ photographs and how many images are needed for it to be a reliable method of monitoring. 
It’s hoped that the the photographs will help to measure discolouration and colour change, erosion, moss and lichen growth, as well as vandalism and the aim is also to establish whether artificial intelligence (AI) can be used as part of this process. 
Climate change is already having a dramatic impact on the condition of these properties – and armed with this research, the aim is that crowdsourcing conservation can help preserve these important sites for generations to come.
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