Listen Up!

Podcasts are digital history! (note: not all podcasts) I like podcasts and I like history so I like podcasts about history very much. Podcasts are digital audio files made available on the Internet and some podcasts are about history. Thus, podcasts can be considered a tool for digital history.

Some podcasts present historical information in a “lesson” format. See: Stuff You Missed In History Class, The History Chicks, and You Must Remember This. My favorite podcast is called The Memory Palace and it each episode presents a short, based-on-fact-but-mostly-fictional interpretation of a historical event or person. These podcasts can be described as recordings of a history lesson or an essay set to a score. In this way, podcasting can be a unique way to present traditional historical research.

Some podcasts that are not exclusively concerned with history find inspiration from historic topics. 99% Invisible is a podcast about “all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” Often, episodes of this podcast delve into the history of an item: “Miss Manhattan” explores the life of Audrey Munson and “The Calendar” is about the history of the calendar.

Podcasts can also feature historic sounds. Lost and Found Sound by the Kitchen Sisters presents historic recordings, “Home recordings and historic broadcasts, unusual archival audio artifacts, endangered sounds, sounds on the verge of extinction, vanishing voices, the merging of languages — how sound shapes history, and history has been shaped by sound.”

I’ve linked all the podcasts to their websites; It is common practice for podcasts to post show notes along with podcasts episodes, many provide bibliographies, links to related information, and extra media like photos. Podcasts could be a stand alone digital history project or perhaps just a supplemental component to present audio information.

Podcasting is a useful tool for a digital historian for a variety of reasons, you can:

  • Present historic sounds in conjunction with your commentary/ research
  • “Publish” oral histories
  • Reach a large audience (or a niche audience)

I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this! Does anyone see other benefits from podcasts? Or perhaps disagree with the idea of podcasts as digital history?

P.S. If you aren’t a fan of podcasts or If you only have time to listen to one, I recommend you listen to any episode of The Memory Palace that sounds interesting to you!

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