First look at new home for Historic Environment Scotland’s archive

Image: Archive House rendering © Oberlanders Architects

‘Archive House’ in Midlothian is expected to be complete by 2026, and is hoped to become an “exemplar of reuse and retrofit”.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has revealed plans for a new home for its archive, and has already begun to prepare for the move.

To be known as ‘Archive House’, the archive will be created in an existing building in an industrial estate in Bonnyrigg, a town in Midlothian, Scotland.

Expected to be completed by 2026, it is hoped to become an “exemplar of reuse and retrofit”, the organisation said.

The current HES Archive is housed at John Sinclair House in Edinburgh and other locations across central Scotland. Across 15km of shelving, it is home to the national archaeological and architectural archive, and holds over 3,500 different collections.

In 2026, the existing Archive Search Room and Library, also at John Sinclair House, will move to the HES headquarters at nearby Longmore House.

The move is hoped to allow the Archive Search Room and Library, which are open to the public, to remain easily accessible for researchers and members of the public.

The project aims to be the first public building to be designed implementing the new Scottish Government Net Zero Public Sector Building Standard, which takes into account the carbon emissions of the building while in use and those associated with the building materials and maintenance.

HES said it expects better accessibility to its archives, both online and in-person, will increase user numbers.

Work is already underway to prepare the archive for its move – archivists have begun documenting, location-coding and repackaging the approximately 6 million items held within the collections.

Lesley Ferguson, Head of Archives at HES, called the project “the greatest opportunity our generation has had to discover, catalogue, conserve and secure the knowledge that underpins the understanding and conservation of Scotland’s history.

“This new purpose-built space will help us enhance and increase our conservation and cataloguing work, while advanced environmental protections and controls will help prevent damage to our priceless collections.

“As well as safeguarding our archive, we are excited about the opportunity this project offers to inspire new audiences to engage with our unique collections and to make them more accessible than ever before.

“We understand how important it is for current users of our archive to be aware of the project and how it might impact them, and we will be providing regular updates as our plans develop.”