CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 3595
TitleAberdeen Harbour Board photographic collection
Date1880s - 1930s
Extentc.7000 glass plate negatives
Creator NameAberdeen Harbour Commission (1843 - 1960), predecessor to Aberdeen Harbour Board (1960 - )
Administrative HistoryAberdeen 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.
Custodial HistoryPhotographs 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.
DescriptionThe Aberdeen Harbour Board Collection consists of about 7000 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.
Accrualsc2000 plates are possibly still to be deposited.
ArrangementThe plates have been numbered sequentially, and listed with summary information about place, date and subject.
Access StatusRestricted
Access ConditionsAccess to the glass plates is not permitted as all have been digitised and are available via the website. Therefore the originals may only be consulted following permission from the University Archivist.

Items are stored in special environmental conditions and require an acclimatisation period of 24 hours before they can be accessed.
Related MaterialThe Davidson and Garden Archive (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 (MS 2762).

Records of the Harbour Commissioners are deposited at Aberdeen City Archives, Town House, Broad Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1AQ, and include Minutes (1810 - 1956); committee minutes, title deeds; and records of the Harbour Engineer. The City Archives also holds the Master of Shorework Accounts for the period 1596 - 1810, and parliamentary plans relating to Harbour improvements.

Institutional records of Aberdeen Harbour Board (as well as more photographic items) are held by Aberdeen City Archives..
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