Rachel Bellerby: Working for History Scotland

For anyone not familiar with this publication, History Scotland is a bi-monthly magazine that explores the country’s history, archaeology and heritage. The magazine is edited by Dr Alasdair Ross, Reader in Environmental and Medieval History at the University of Stirling, and has an editorial board which includes representatives from universities around the world, specialist societies, and national organisations including Historic Environment Scotland, National Trust for Scotland and Archaeology Scotland. In the seven years I’ve been involved with the magazine, there have been many changes to the way in which we communicate with our readers, but our print and digital magazine remains at the heart of what we do.

One of the core tasks within my current role as news editor is sourcing news content for the magazine and our website which is done via a mixture of press releases, exploring the websites of Scottish history and archaeology groups and organisations, and liaising with contacts within the industry.

Every week is different, which is why I enjoy this work so much; last week I was lucky enough to interview Nick Finnigan, executive manager of Edinburgh Castle, about managing visitor flow around this historic building; today I’m following up a story about teeth snatching in 18th-century Edinburgh!


Engaging our audience

One key aspect of our work on History Scotland is tailoring what we produce to suit different audiences. So for example, a news story about archaeology finds which summarises what has been found and where would work well on our website, however readers of the magazine would expect a more in-depth treatment. Therefore I would approach the archaeologists in question and request more information, perhaps an interview with one of the dig team, or the promise of a write-up for the magazine once the finds have been analysed.

So, who writes for History Scotland? Between our news and features pages, we aim to highlight the work of a wide range of people including academics, early career researchers, museum professionals, heritage volunteers, archaeologists, community workers, as well as local and family history enthusiasts.

Our book reviews section, edited by Dr Allan Kennedy, newly-appointed lecturer in history at the University of Dundee, provides in-depth coverage of recently published history and archaeology titles, with expert reviews written by professionals within the field of the topic of each book. We also have regular columns written by Dr Tristram Clarke of the National Records of Scotland, and Ken Nisbet of the Scottish Genealogy Society.

The Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology

Many of the projects we feature involve volunteers and the participation of the local community, and this is something we’re keen to champion with History Scotland. For the Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology, we worked with Visit Scotland to produce a guide to this special year, which is free to download.

We have also launched a Hidden Histories podcast, which is also free to listen to. Throughout 2017, History Scotland editorial board member Neil McLennan has been touring Scotland and visiting attractions and historic hotels to find out more about the people who work and volunteer at heritage sites.

Neil has unearthed some great stories about historic buildings and the teams who work there, as well as the history of independent hotels and B&Bs up and down the country. To maximise the potential of this coverage for the sites involved, we’ve been sharing clips on social media so that Facebook and Twitter history fans can enjoy this year-long adventure.

Looking to the future

Having seen how people around Scotland and further afield have engaged with the country’s history and heritage during the Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology, I believe that the future is bright. Scotland is a world leader in history and heritage, with this sector providing tens of thousands of jobs and contributing hundreds of millions of pounds to the economy each year.


Ancestral tourism, the growing visitor market from countries including the US and China, and the interest from films and novels such as Outlander look set to continue to tempt people to our shores.

The effect of climate change and the need to preserve our historic buildings is another growth area where Scotland plays a global role; the new partnership between Historic Environment Scotland, University of Stirling and The Palace Museum in Beijing will enable Scotland to capitalise on its leading role in investigating the issues facing built heritage and the impact of climate change around the world.

Of course, none of the above would be possible without the many people who work and volunteer within the history, archaeology and heritage sectors, or indeed our audience of history enthusiasts around the world. Without the public’s enthusiasm for the past, little of the work that is done in these fields around the country would be viable. So no matter what your level of expertise, we would love to welcome you to the History Scotland community, so do come and join us as we celebrate Scotland’s rich past and exciting future.

Rachel Bellerby is news editor of History Scotland magazine, published by Warners Group Publications, and also provides editorial support for two other Warners titles – Family Tree and Stamp and Coin Mart.

She is a history graduate of University of Wales, Lampeter, where she studied medieval monasticism, a continuing passion she is slightly amazed to be able to apply in the world of work.

Cover Image and Image 2 © Warners Group Publications PLC; Image 1 (CC) Ad Meskens



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