Podcasts have become pretty popular in recent years. It’s no wonder since we seem to live in a society that is always listening to something through their headphones or earbuds. Podcasts are mobile, they don’t require a large investment of time or looking at a screen, and they can be both entertaining and educational. It’s easy to see the appeal.
I recently listened to an episode of Sidedoor: A Podcast from the Smithsonian, which is an excellent example of a podcast that could connect to a varied audience. They provide stories based on the treasures inside the museum and present the information in a way that feels almost like a conversation. Below the link to each podcast are digitized artifacts from the Smithsonian collection that relate to the topic, inviting further exploration and research. The visuals help to illustrate the subject matter and provide a better understanding of it. Another podcast that I listened to was from Stuff You Missed in History Class and it was about tea. I’m a big tea drinker so anything having to do with tea interests me. These podcasts are micro stories of history and, like me, anyone can search for a topic that appeals to them to get more information, regardless of whether they are a history buff.
Because they are on the Internet, these podcasts are accessible to all, which allows for a wide audience, and are just the little educational tidbit that many people crave. Creating a podcast as part of or in addition to a history exhibit could be a great way to engage an audience, especially since it’s something that can be shared on social media. People visiting the physical (or virtual) exhibit could learn more about the subject that they just saw while others may listen as an introduction to a topic hopefully piquing their interest enough to check out the exhibit or just research the topic further.
While it’s true that a podcast is not everyone’s cup of tea (no pun intended), the value of it cannot be overlooked. Public historians need to use all avenues to connect with the public.