News from the Forth Bridge World Heritage Management Group

An update from Dr Miles Oglethorpe, Chair of the Forth Bridge World Heritage Management Group (FBWHMG), including examples of "Forth Bridgery"

The Forth Bridges United Kingdom 11/16/2021 5:30:30 PM

Prior to the CoVid19 Pandemic, the FBWHMG achieved record attendance at our quarterly meetings, and as chair of the Group, I was very grateful for everybody’s input and enthusiasm – this is so important to the wider work of the Forum as well as to the ongoing health of the World Heritage Site. You might have expected the onset of the pandemic to dampen everyone’s enthusiasm, but if anything, the reverse has been the case. We have continued to meet, and attendance has been fantastic.

This because, thanks to what has been a turbo-charged digital revolution, and to the continuing support of BEAR Scotland, we have managed to morph our regular gatherings into virtual meetings which have worked really well. So despite the continuing restrictions, traumas and frustrations, we have managed to meet every three months and take some projects forward.

Of these, perhaps the most exciting has been the formation of a ‘Collections Sub-Group’. Many readers will be aware that the Forth Bridge is one of the best documented World Heritage sites in the world. There are already huge numbers of publications in circulation, not to mention photographs, documents, drawings, artefacts and artwork. It is with this in mind that the main aim of the new sub-group is to gather information on what Forth Bridge material exists, where it is, and then work out how to help make it work for us and the wider interest of the Bridge itself, together with its associated communities.

So far, the Collections sub-group has met twice (in April and July) and has rapidly set work, defining its remit. Ultimately, its main purpose is to support the Forth Bridge World Heritage Management Plan, a core part of which is to protect and promote the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Bridge. In so doing, it’s important to note that the group will not itself actively collect material. However, it will liaise with national, local and private museums, as well as individuals and institutions to record existing Forth Bridge-related material in their collections.

To do this successfully and ensure consistency, the group is working on establishing a recording template and a standardised glossary of terms. As our work evolves, we anticipate advising or directing holders of collections or significant items to centres of expertise, especially where the condition of the material requires conservation, or where digitisation might be a priority. Finally, we expect there to be very significant educational and promotional opportunities to emerge as the project progresses and we begin to get to grips with the extent and quality of the material that’s out there.

One particular by-product of this activity is a project we are calling ‘Forth Bridgery’. We are collecting incidences of the use of the Forth Bridge in other contexts, such as in advertising, artwork and politics. It’s incredible to see the extent to which the Bridge has penetrated across Scottish culture and beyond, and we believe that recording this phenomenon can help us better gauge its iconic power, and how it relates to its OUV. In the near future, we plan to invite members of the public to send us their photographs of Forth Bridgery when they encounter it, and with their permission, we intend to post them on the Forth Bridges website, along with other newsworthy information that is unearthed by the work of the Collections subgroup.

Meanwhile, the FBWHMG is continuing its discussions with Network Rail to help facilitate the appointment of a World Heritage Co-ordinator for the Forth Bridge. Inevitably, this has been disrupted both by the pandemic, and by unanticipated events affecting the rail network in Scotland over the last year. However, we are making progress and hope to have someone in post later this year. This is important because we urgently need to start work on the new World Heritage Management Plan, now that the original is reaching the end of its natural life.

As well as looking forward to the appointment of a co-ordinator, we are also eagerly anticipating the launch of the ‘UNESCO National Trail for Scotland’. This is a unique project - led by Visit Scotland with the support of Scottish Ministers and UNESCO UK – which brings together all six of Scotland’s World Heritage Sites with a selection of other UNESCO designations, notably the four Geoparks and Biospheres and our Creative Cities (Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow).

The Trail is primarily a digital project which will create its own website with destination pages for all the 13 designated UNESCO sites in the trail. There will be a variety of promotional resources on the website, including videos, recommended itineraries and blogs, but a key theme will be the promotion of responsible, sustainable tourism in line with UNESCO’s core principles. Needless to say, as a potent symbol of sustainable public transport, we are working to ensure that the Forth Bridge takes a prominent place in the project, which will be publicised at COP26 in November in Glasgow before being fully launched in time for the Tourism Expo early next year.

So, far from being a time of frustration and inactivity, the last year has been positive for the FBWHMG, and once again I would like to express my personal thanks to all those who have  continued to contribute so enthusiastically to the work of the Group. Having said that, I am greatly looking forward to seeing everyone in-the-flesh once again in the not-too-distant future.

Dr Miles Oglethorpe
July 2021



Edinburgh Airport Wetherspoons bar. Photo: Miles Oglethorpe

Ivy Restaurant, Edinburgh.  Photo: John Andrew

Bin Lorry in Edinburgh.  Photo: Miles Oglethorpe

Heritage chocolate on sale in the National Museums of Scotland. Photo: Miles Oglethorpe

Decoration company’s van in Edinburgh   Photo: Miles Oglethorpe

Hearing Aid clinic in Morningside, Edinburgh.  Photo: Craig Bowman

Opening of the Edinburgh International Festival, 2017, St Andrews Square.  Photo: Miles Oglethorpe

Local coffee company   Photo: Chris McGregor

Scottish heritage clock on sale in Biggar.  Photo: Miles Oglethorpe