Becoming an Urban Detective: the basics

How to start researching and recording Scotland’s towns and cities for future generations.

Heritage lovers all over Scotland and further afield are contributing to Canmore, our national online record of architecture, archaeology and industry.

With your help, we can bring this national collection to life with social history and important details.

How can I help?

You don’t need any archaeology, surveying or fieldwork experience to be an Urban Detective.

Even minimal information can make a difference to the national record.

Minimal information can include the location of your site and classification of your site (for example, a tenement or a post office).

5 steps to becoming an Urban Detective

Follow these five easy steps and learn how you can share the story of places in your own town or city.

1. Choose your urban site 

Signal boxes, beach huts, cinemas - the choice is yours. 

A photograph of a woman looking at a small building.

2. Investigate

Discover the story of your site through archives, maps, books and photographs. You can often find basic information from desk research using Google Street View and archives.

Read our resources on using archives to get started.

A photograph of a young woman looking at a map through a magnifying glass.

3. Record

If you can physically and safely access your site, record it through measurements, sketches, photographs and survey drawings.

See our guidance on recording buildings for inspiration.

A photograph of two women measuring a doorway to an old building.

4. Register and contribute

If you haven't registered as an Urban Detective on our website yet, register now.

Login to add your information, memories or images.

You can add as little or as much as you like by suggesting a siteclassifying an existing site, or adding more information and photographs of existing sites.

Follow our step-by-step guides on how to contribute to Canmore and the National Record of the Built Environment.


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5. Share

Your contributions become publicly accessible for others on Canmore. 

By sharing your research, records and images, you help to make the stories of Scotland’s towns and cities more accessible.

A photograph of a woman with red hair looking at a mobile tablet.