Aberdeen Harbour Board Collection

Scope and Content

The Aberdeen Harbour Board Collection consists of about 8,000 glass plate negatives, mainly images of the harbour and surrounding area, but including some of Aberdeen city and further afield. They provide a detailed pictorial record of the city and harbour during a period of rapid expansion and industrialisation, and include images of the bomb-damage suffered during the First World War.

Administrative / Biographical History

Aberdeen Harbour Board was established by the Aberdeen Harbour Confirmation Act 1960, and amended by the Aberdeen Harbour Order Confirmation Act 1987. It has thirteen members, seven being appointed by Scottish Ministers after nomination by the principal organisations involved in the use of the harbour, and the remainder appointed by Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, and the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

The present Harbour Board replaces the nineteenth century Aberdeen Harbour Commission, a body which was formally established in 1843 and modified through a series of more than seven Acts of Parliament during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These Acts were concerned variously with developing the constitution of the Commission, making the Commissioners more representative of the Harbour users, and most importantly, granting them powers to raise funds for new harbour developments and extensions.

The main impetus for development came in 1885, with the arrival of the new steam trawling industry to Aberdeen, bringing considerable prosperity to the city, and prompting the development of ancilliary industries in the harbour area. By the early twentieth century a large fishing fleet and commercial trade operated from the harbour, though both industries suffered during the First and Second World Wars, when the harbour was used as a base for naval vessels, and subjected to frequent air attacks. Since this time, fishing and related industries have declined in importance, being replaced to some degree by the offshore oil and gas industries, passenger ferries and the import and export business of wood and paper products.

The Harbour Commission and latterly, the Harbour Board, have been responsible for developing the infrastructure required to support industry operating from Aberdeen Harbour since the mid nineteenth century, and as such, have played an impotrant role in the growth and prosperity of the City of Aberdeen. Further details of their work and the early history of the port, which was first recorded in a royal charter of 1136, can be found in J.R. Turner, Scotland's North Sea Gateway (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1986). Annual reports and accounts have been published annually since 1891 (for the period 1891 - 1951 Accounts of the Revenue and Expenditure of Aberdeen Harbour, continued from 1960 as Annual Report and Abstract of Accounts); and since 1961 the new Harbour Board has produced an annual Official Handbook, or Guide, describing its work and providing statistics about the harbour and brief histories for the established companies based there. All of these publications are available in the University Library, with full reference details accessible online http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/


The plates are being numbered sequentially, and listed with summary information about place, date and subject. Listing will be on-going throughout 2001. Batches of images are being mounted on the Web as listing progresses and can be searched by subject - http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/historic/harbour/. If further details are required, please contact the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: speclib@abdn.ac.uk)

Conditions Governing Access

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

See Archival History

Other Finding Aids

On-line finding aid with search facilities available at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/historic/harbour/

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/

Alternative Form Available

Scanned images can be viewed at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/historic/harbour/

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: speclib@abdn.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

Photographs were taken by the Commission's engineering staff as a record of port developments and activities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The glass plate negatives remained in their custody and latterly, the new Harbour Board's, until their deposit in the University in July 1999. They have been placed with the University for a period of 50 years, and financial assistance has been provided, as part of the Board's Millenium celebrations, to preserve and scan the plates. The first batches of scanned images were made available on the Web during 2000, and are being added to until the whole collection is available in this format (see Existence/Location of copies for further details).


No accruals expected

Related Material

Two further deposits containing related units of description have been identified in this repository:

The Davidson and Garden Archive (ref. GB 231 MS 2769) contains records of the Harbour Commission for the period 1843 - 1889, and records of the Town Council and Harbour Committee for the period c.1820 - 1840s. These records have not been fully listed, but appear to be mainly administrative and financial. There is also a small collection of typescript notes and extracts relating to Aberdeen Harbour (ref. GB 231 MS 2762).

Several of the nineteenth century Harbour Acts and engineers' reports are held in the University's Pamphlet and Local Collections. Further details of these and the archival deposits described above can be found on the Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/

Institutional records of Aberdeen Harbour Board remain in private hands, and have been surveyed by the National Register of Archives (Scotland) (NRA(S) Survey 2313). Further details can be obtained from National Register of Archives, National Archives of Scotland, HM General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY.


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

This material is original