Society of Antiquaries of Scotland & Rubicon Heritage - The Rhind Lectures
The prestigious Rhind Lectures series began in 1874 after Scottish antiquarian Alexander Rhind left an endowment for an annual series of public lectures on historical or archaeological topics. Since then 134 Rhind Lectures have been given by leading researchers making them a key event in the heritage calendar. The format of the Rhinds is unusual – six lectures, on one topic, are given over the course of a weekend by a single expert – providing the audience with an in depth examination of the subject. The event attracts the general public, students, academics and policy makers alongside members of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
Image: Alexander Rhind
The 2014 Rhind Lectures were delivered by the eminent Irish archaeologist, Emeritus Professor John Waddell of the National University of Ireland, Galway. The lectures, entitled “Archaeology and Celtic Myth – an exploration” took place in the Royal Society of Edinburgh between the 25th and 27th April.
Although still named the Rhind Lectures, Alexander Rhind’s endowment no longer finances the event. Lectures are now funded from the core funds. Given the profile of the lecture series and the quality of the event, the Society decided, for the first time, to seek commercial sponsorship for the event.
In considering who to approach for sponsorship, the Society identified the Irish connection as a key element of the event. While researching companies in Scotland with links to Ireland, it was noted that Rubicon Heritage Services, an international commercial archaeology company, had recently opened an office in Edinburgh. The Society contacted the Managing Director directly to ask if Rubicon Heritage would be interested in sponsoring the Rhinds. Personal knowledge of the Society, support for the Rhinds from the Irish Consul Pat Bourne and Professor Waddell’s reputation made the “ask” relatively straight forwards. Rubicon Heritage was keen to align itself to the values of the Society (quality, authority, knowledge) and to support Irish cultural exchange.
The Society aims to be a centre of excellence providing an independent heritage hub of expertise and resources to facilitate, exchange and promote research into Scotland’s past to the widest possible audience. The Rhind Lectures weekend is a fine example of how the Society fulfils that aim.
The six lectures took place in the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a prestigious city centre venue from the 25th to 27th April 2014. A total audience of 650 attended the lectures over the course of the weekend. A drinks reception was held after the opening lecture on the Friday evening. This provided a convivial networking environment for the audience and our sponsors. Information panels on recent archaeological projects and a pop-up book shop were available in the foyer area for audiences throughout the event.
The lectures were professionally recorded for the first time and will remain available to watch online via the Society website in perpetuity. This extends the reach of the event to our Fellows across the UK and overseas, students, academics and other interested members of the general public.
Arts/cultural organisation story
Although the Society had previously attracted sponsorship for conference events on an ad hoc basis, it had not sought support for the Rhind Lectures, one of its most high profile events. In January 2014 the Society created a new post with responsibility for developing membership and diversifying income. On reviewing Society activities, it became clear that the Rhinds offered a unique sponsorship opportunity – a prestigious, focused weekend event with an informed audience. The Society is seeking to raise its profile with non-academic heritage professionals. By partnering with a commercial heritage organisation the Society reached new audiences in the business sector. Rubicon’s social media activity around the sponsorship, underlined the Society’s relevance to contemporary archaeological practice.
We are currently discussing future sponsorship opportunities with Rubicon Heritage and hope to build on the success of the partnership. Our sponsor attended Arts & Business Scotland's New Arts Sponsorship reception which provided us with an informal environment to reflect on the success of the sponsorship and discuss ideas for future collaboration.
The Society is inexperienced in seeking commercial sponsorship and the process of applying for the New Arts Sponsorship Grant was very useful. It helped the new member of staff outline what an organisation needs to consider ensuring the relationship with the sponsor is clearly defined and benefits discussed fully and agreed
Our involvement in the Rhinds has significantly increased Rubicon’s profile in Scotland and further afield. We have had a significant increase in sales opportunities in Scotland over the last two months and in June, experienced our highest ever turnover in Scotland. While this is the result of a number of factors, I have no doubt that our connection with the Rhinds assisted with this, particularly through recommendations from archaeologists providing planning advice within the local authorities. We have also received favourable comments from colleagues in Ireland and England regarding our involvement in the Rhinds. We have also noticed a significant increase in Scottish engagement in our various social media during this time helped in no small way by our involvement in the Rhinds.
The New Arts Sponsorship Grant allowed the Society to have the lectures professionally filmed and edited for online viewing. The professionally filmed lectures have produced a more engaging resource for online users. This in turn has allowed us to promote the online resource more proactively to audiences beyond our Fellows e.g. academic departments, Celtic and archaeology societies. We also produced a short promotional film which has been featured on the websites of Rubicon Heritage and the Society. This is an excellent marketing tool for the online resource and has been promoted widely via Facebook and Twitter by the Society, Irish Consulate and the sponsor. The film company, Mallard Productions, also did vox pop interviews with the audience throughout the weekend which added to the atmosphere and enjoyment of the event.