Purpose and Level of Recording:-
The Air Photograph Primary Recording Project creates and enhances records in the National Monument Record, at level 1, on a county by county basis from the rapid examination of the specialist oblique collection of air photographs held in RCHME's National Monument Record Centre. This collection comprises over 700,000 oblique photographs of archaeological sites and buildings, taken between the 1920's and the present day.
The main reason prompting the development of the programme is the existence of a backlog of uninvestigated photography in the oblique collection. RCHME's Air Photographic Unit has embarked upon a major country-wide air photographic recording programme - the National Mapping Programme. This will consult all available photography and will record monuments to level 2, a greater level than AP Primary Recording. However, because of the extent and the level of recording of the National Mapping Programme, it is envisaged that it will take from ten to fifteen years to complete. AP Primary Recording, therefore, provides a comparitively rapid method of getting the most important information contained within the oblique collection, into the National Monuments Record.
Although AP Primary Recording is intended to be a national programme, priority will be given to those counties which are not involved in other recording projects, in order to avoid duplication of effort.
The sphere of interest for AP Primary Recording equates to that of the National Monuments Record (all sites up to 1945). In examining photography of rural landscapes, all major monuments should be recorded and located, although discretion should be shown as to the value of recording upstanding buildings or buildings in use, also, medieval and post-medieval agricultural remains (particularly ridge and furrow) and enclosures. geological and other natural features should only be recorded in exceptional circumstances. Twentieth century industry, settlement remains and communication features should also be treated lightly.
It is important, however, to highlight some of the limitations of this recording programme. In most cases air photography is not the most efficient or informative source from which to record upstanding buildings, especially in urban areas; other recording programmes (architectural recording, listed buildings computerisation and urban archaeological databases) are prime movers in creating records in urban environments. Complex archaeological sceneries can be difficult to record from a limited number of oblique air photographs - AP Primary Recording can usefully flag such sceneries, but depending on the quality of the APs, further detailed classification is problematical. Caution is necessary when a potential site is seen in a single AP or a limited number of APs, especially if the quality of the photography is poor; decisions about dubious or poorly understood sites are better made by the National Mapping Programme (described above) for which a wider representation of photography and sources are being consulted. Also, the fact that AP Primary Recording is a rapid recording project covering large areas in relatively short amounts of time means that the geology and the archaeology of the areas will not be so well undrstood, this again will inhibit the ability of the recorder to make decisions in certain cases. To summarise, AP Primary Recording should concentrate on recording major sites/features clearly visible in oblique APs and which at present are not represented in the National Monuments Record.