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Intern Weekly Response: Podcast Nation 2019

Posted on June 20th, 2019 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to read both Podcasting In 2019: An Introduction for Museums and Tasting Together: Podcasts And Meaningful Community Engagement, then select a museum-related podcast and share their reviews, in preparation for creating their own podcast episodes later in the summer. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


Podcast: SpyCast from the International Spy Museum

~Intern Megan Orbach

After reading Podcasting in 2019: An introduction for Museums and Tasting Together: Podcasts And Meaningful Community Engagement and listening to a couple SpyCast podcast episodes, I found myself deep in a world I have never been in but am newly very interested in. Firstly, I have not explored the world of podcasts way too much yet and seeing the plethora of podcasts that exist solely in the museum world was very eye opening for me.

 

The first thing that I realized was that podcasts are a unique way to reach an audience, especially in that one can listen to them almost anywhere, even in the car on the way to work. Further, they are perfect for those who are less visually inclined but are stronger audibly.


The podcast I listened to is run by the International Spy Museum of Washington D.C. Their unique subject matters made it both fascinating and difficult to relate to the initial reading I did.

The first episode I listened to was about an organization called Hostage UK & US. The episode tells the story of this international organization that works to help the families of hostages who are, of course, impacted by their family members’ captivities. I found it intriguing how and why the Spy Museum chose this topic to discuss on their podcast. Throughout the episode I understood that the museum seems to do a lot of work pertaining to counter-terrorism and may have chosen this subject because it, many times, overlaps with hostage situations. Further, I also enjoyed how they were telling the story of the operation with the founder in the room; it made for a much more contextually accurate and descriptive story.  

 

The second episode I listened to was about “An American’s Path to Al-Qa’ida”. It detailed the story of a non-Muslim American who decided to convert into Islam and eventually ended up joining Al-Qa’ida. It was extremely interesting to listen to as it is certainly not an ‘every-day’ type of story. This story also relates to counterterrorism which is likely why the museum was interested in it as well.

 

In both episodes, I liked how the host/interviewer in the podcast was present but really allowed the guest to tell their stories, and made sure to ask questions that guided the guest instead of choosing topics or speaking points for them. More than that, I liked how the episodes didn’t seem too edited and filtered; it was very raw and true to the actual recording.

 

I believe the relation between the Spy Museum’s podcasts and the reading about the food podcast is that they both are in existence and were made to tell stories and to allow voices to be heard, potentially also serving as the only platform some are able to or asked to speak on.

This makes sense because, as the reading points out, museums exist to tell stories and many times, to give voices to stories. Image: Spy Museum, Washington D.C. Via.


Podcast: Art Palace from the Cincinnati Art Museum

~Intern Mallory  Connaughton

Podcasts are a great way to engage people who may not know a lot about a topic, or who may be unable to have access to certain materials. For museums, podcasts can provide outreach to those out of the area, showcasing what the museum may have. But it also provides museums with a new way to tell the stories of the various artifacts. It can be challenging to start a podcast, as some of our weekly reading pointed out, but once the first few episodes are out it can become incredibly natural and fluid to produce.

The podcast I listened to is “Art Palace”, which is produced by the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Two to three episodes come out every month and each episode is hosted by Russell Ihrig.

Every episode also has a guest. The first half of the episode involves talking to the guest, the second half has the podcast has them walking through the museum, looking at and discussing an exhibit that Russell picked out in advance.

The tag line for the podcast is “The podcast where we meet cool people and then talk to them about art”.

The podcast not only discusses pieces featured in the museum, but it also involves talking to the guests about their jobs, feelings and opinions on the topics brought up. Guests are mostly from outside the museum, although in some episodes there are other members of the museum present as the guest. Across the episodes, the listener slowly learns more about the various pieces and exhibits within the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Personally, I love podcasts. I listen to a lot of podcasts, all discussing different topics and some focusing more on stories then facts and history. One of the things I love the most about podcasts is how they can approach knowledge heavy topics and deliver them in a fun narrative way – while still educating the listener. But before this, I didn’t really listen to podcasts produced by museums. Through this project I have found several podcasts that I’ve added to my ever-growing list to listen to. But “Art Palace” really stood out to me. To start, I’ve always loved art museums and art history has been a hobby of mine – especially through college. But “Art Palace” also has an interesting dynamic, with the host and the new guests every episode. It provides the listener with not just a fun new interaction, but also with someone who the selected exhibit was picked for – which provides a new type on insight to the topics discusses, not just people who specialize in art.

Museums benefit from podcasts. As someone current in school with little to no time to travel, hearing about the exhibits and unique features of different museums makes me look more into the specific museums and their exhibits, curious to visit. Podcasts are still a very new platform, although it has a huge fan base – which is still strongly growing. But the way that podcasts can engage such a broad and vast audience and bring new information to those who don’t have direct access is amazing, and the industry is just going to keep growing.


Podcast: Museopunks from the American Alliance of Museums

~Intern Elana Neher

The podcast that I listened to for this week’s response was a podcast that I have listened to on and off for a few years now, Museopunks. The show was started in 2013 by Suse Anderson, an assistant professor of Museum Studies at The George Washington University and Baltimore resident, and Jeffrey Inscho, the former Web and Digital Media Manager at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Inscho has since left the museum sector and the podcast. Museopunks is produced by The American Alliance of Museums.

The tagline for the show, “the podcast for the progressive museum,” encompasses what the show is about perfectly. Each week, Anderson brings on a variety of museum professionals to discuss the issues facing museums today, particularly the issues of the “progressive museum” and how museums are moving into the future.

As a student who spends much of her class time studying museums and discussing similar issues, this podcast feels like sitting at discussion panel or in a seminar class with some of the most educated, experienced, and innovative people in the museum world. I felt engaged for the entire hour listening to the different perspectives of the museum professionals, but I also felt like I was a part of the conversation. A discussion panel at a conference puts people up on a stage, separate from the audience, but this podcast feels much more intimate.

The format of a conversation within a group allows Anderson to select a wide range of guests with interesting and different perspectives on the topics that will be discussed within the episode. Anderson’s selection of guests lends itself to interesting conversations that both the listener and guests themselves can learn from. In each episode, guests brought up facets to each topic that I had never considered and, after each episode, I felt like my knowledge on the topic had broadened and my opinion about the issue had become more informed.


Podcasts: Museums in Strange Places from Hannah Hethmon and Museums of Lost Objects from BBC Radio 4.

Intern Ariella Shua

According to the two articles we read this week, podcasts are the perfect fit for museums. Hannah Hethmon and Ian Elsner, who both run museum-focused podcast series, wrote Podcasting in 2019: An Introduction for Museums. They provided a guide for the inexperienced and curious: they know that this works. The Jewish Museum and Archives of BC (JMABC), a Canadian institution, wrote about their successes with trying the new medium out. They found that by making their podcast recordings part of a larger community-focused initiative, they were able to increase interest in JMABC programs and their own Oral History Collection.

Edison Research reports that over 44% of Americans have listened to a podcast. And that number keeps growing, year by year. If that’s the case, Hethmon and Elsner say, then museums who want to stay relevant need to become part of the trend. They need to choose a niche topic that relates to their institution, use a hook that makes it sustainable over a number of episodes, and put in the work — often inexpensive, but time-consuming — for a good product. JMABC, only staffed by 3 full-time workers, was able to do it. And Hethmon’s website lists dozens of other museums and non-profits that have also stepped into the world of podcasting.

After reading the two articles, I decided to venture into the world of museum podcasts. I wasn’t going to be a producer, but a listener: the audience that all podcasts desperately crave.

I decided to listen to a few episodes of “Museum of Lost Objects.” The podcast primarily focuses on ancient Iraqi and Syrian artifacts that have been destroyed or ruined. 18 episodes were released between February 2016 and July 2017.

I should mention that I’m not a dedicated podcast listener. I have tried out a few over the last year. However, I tended to want a visual medium for extra context or let my mind wander and missed half of the episodes. The one exception came when I listened to Hethmon’s Museums in Strange Places episode on the Sandy Spring Museum in Maryland. A class I was in had visited the museum and then listened to the episode afterwards. My familiarity with the museum helped keep me interested in the behind-the-scenes information.

Hethmon invites anyone to add podcasts about museums or related fields to her Podcast Directory. Museum of Lost Objects, which is run by the BBC, is not included in the list.

I chose Museums of Lost Objects, despite not knowing the lost objects, simply because I was intrigued by the subject. Near Eastern archaeology and history always draw me in. I listened to several episodes: “The Winged-Bull of Nineveh;” “Palmyra: Temple of Bel;” and “The Genie of Nimrud.” All were a manageable length at 11 and a half minutes long.

Almost immediately into my first episode, I was frustrated by the same issue that I normally have with podcasts. The episode focuses on the Winged Bull of Nineveh, an ancient sculpture in present-day Iraq. Its face was bulldozed off by the ISIS in 2015. It sounds fascinating, and I was glad to hear about it. But if the episode hadn’t had the small thumbnail picture of the Winged Bull, I wouldn’t have known what it looked like. The narrator of the episode used a great physical description, but it wasn’t enough to get a sense of the size, scale, and awe that the statue truly evokes.

I also felt disconnected from the episode as a whole. I love Near Eastern archaeology, and the narrator and the subjects he interviewed were pleasant to listen to. But there was a personal connection lacking in the production. Most of the “Winged-Bull” episode was the narrator speaking, with some interviews peppered in. I felt like I was in class, being lectured to by a professor.

The Winged Bull of Nineveh is used as the thumbnail of the first episode of “Museum of Lost Objects.” Without the picture, I wouldn’t have been able to fully conceptualize the sculpture, even though the narrator described it in the episode.

It wasn’t until halfway through the first episode that I realized what part of the problem was: a museum wasn’t running the podcast. BBC Radio 4, a British media company, produced the episodes. Despite the title, no museum was linked to “Museum of Lost Objects.” The narrator, a journalist, did not work directly with or around the items he was describing. It contributed to an impersonal vibe overall.

Despite my dissatisfaction, I listened to a few more episodes. As though they knew my criticisms, the other episodes improved on “Winged-Bull.” “Palmyra” mostly consisted of an interview with a woman whose father died protecting the ancient city. “Genie” included fun pop culture references to Aladdin and Lord of the Rings. Both felt a lot more interactive as a result, like they mattered to those working on the episode on a relatable level.

Today’s entry into the world of podcasts was similar to my previous endeavors. I’m interested in the subject at hand, but quickly will zone out. It needs to be more than just an interesting topic: those working on the episode need to keep the viewers in mind while they’re writing, recording, and producing.

And museums (real ones, not the BBC) — I encourage making podcasts. I really don’t understand the obsession. But if done well, someone will listen.


Podcast: The Schmooze from the Yiddish Book Center.

~Intern Hannah Balik

For this assignment, I decided to listen to a few episodes from The Schmooze, The Yiddish Book Center’s podcast, which aims to display conversations with Jewish culture makers, as well as explore stories related to Yiddish literature, language, and culture. The Yiddish Book Center boasts being the first Yiddish Museum, and this podcast is an extension of their mission of celebrating and regenerating Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture. Previously to listening to these episodes, I was aware of the Yiddish Book Center and some of their programs (mainly their Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, which one of my friends from college is currently attending) but had not explored their website or any other information about them.

This podcast was a great welcome to the Center and what they care about. The first episode I listened to was episode 0221: Inside ‘Hankus’s Closet,  in which host Lisa Newman sits down with Hankus Netsky, who has worked with the Yiddish Book Center since its beginnings in the 1980s.  In this episode, Netsky discusses a closet near his office at the Center which over the years has accumulated a mix of non-literature donations including sheet music, manuscripts, and records. Netsky was given the task of exploring the contents of this closet, and found many treasures inside of it, including original manuscripts of music by popular Yiddish musicians as well as Yiddish musicals. This podcast episode is a great example of what makes podcasts a great medium for museums to utilize: the ability to tell new stories that would otherwise be untold. These treasures have been sitting in this closet for years, as they were determined to be not of the main focus of the Center, and thus pushed aside. This episode ensures that these objects are remembered, even if they are never going to be shown in an exhibit or put on the shelves of the library. This episode shows that the Center understands that there is important history in all objects which deserve to be told, even that doesn’t fit its focus, which is literature.

I also listened to episode 0219: Considering Jewish Children’s Literature, which featured Meredith Lewis, who works for the PJ Library, a non-profit aiming to provide Jewish and interfaith children with free books and music related to Judaism to enrich their Jewish education. The recording of this episode took place during Tent: Children’s Literature, the Center’s week-long retreat for writers and author-illustrators of books for children. Already, we can see a strong connection between the podcast and the values of the Yiddish Book Center, including the celebration and preservation of Jewish identity, and youth education. This is an opportunity to hear from a person passionate about this topic in an open conversation in what it means to distribute Jewish related literature and books, and what it means to raise Jewish children in 2019. The Yiddish Book Center has their own vast library of Children’s Literature, so this conversation fits well with their mission, but is not something that would have been able to occur without the podcast medium. A conversation like this would historically only happen at a lecture or a conference, which would take place at the institution. Turning this conversation into a podcast, however, makes it much more accessible to people regardless of schedule, location, or affiliation with the institution.

 The Schmooze podcast serves as a great example of how podcasts are a great medium for museum enhancement. It gives the opportunity for museum professionals to give a wider audience the ability to learn more deeply about the holdings of their institution, as well as showcase the people who are working to further scholarship in Yiddish studies. Hannah Hethmon, in her article ‘Podcasting in 2019: An Introduction for Museums’, says that podcasts benefit museums in three ways: organic reach, intimacy, and a dedicated audience.  Podcasts are a direct line of contact between the audience and the museum staff, and allows for a more diverse range of topics, by the fact that it is published weekly or bi-weekly, much more often than exhibits rotate. They also allow for the space to discuss topics brought up in exhibits, but that perhaps cannot be fully explored in that setting, and allow for the opportunity to hear conversations with experts on their field of study, diving deeper into topics that followers of that museums or institution are familiar with or would be interested in.

Hethmon states that podcast listeners are hungry for new and complex information, more than they can get from a Wikipedia article or a Twitter feed. Museums are the perfect institutions to fill this knowledge gap. Museums are institutions filled with vast knowledge, and stories about real people, which are often complicated and interconnected. Museum professionals have the task of telling these stories in a way that is digestible and accessible to the public. Podcasts are just another way for museums to accomplish this goal. After all, what is the point of having a museum full of history if not for people to hear, learn, and grow from this information? The important part of museums is the stories and lessons that they hold, not the buildings they exist in. Podcasts can be supported and made stronger by blogposts, and in-person programming, which also help to boost museum engagement.

Yiddish Books, from the Yiddish Book Center Website.

The Schmooze podcast worked in engaging me. As someone who doesn’t live near The Yiddish Book Center’s campus in Amherst, Massachusetts, this podcast allowed me to connect with the center and learn about their collection as well as the preservation and scholarly work they are doing. After listening a few episodes, I took the opportunity to explore the Book Center’s website, and stumbled upon the many resources they have to offer, including their digital Yiddish library, their collection of Oral Histories, and their Yiddish language learning resources, which I am definitely going to utilize. I am now subscribed to the podcast and look forward to listening to their new episodes while I work out or clean my apartment.


 

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Intern Weekly Response: Podcast Nation

Posted on June 28th, 2018 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to select a museum-related podcast and share their reviews, in preparation for creating their own podcast episodes later in the summer. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


Podcast: American Icons

Intern Alexia M. Orengo Green

As someone who recently got interested in podcasts this week’s response was fun because it gave me the opportunity to find new shows. Podcasts can be an informal and fun way to learn about a certain subject on your way to work, while on the train, or even while cooking dinner. This week I discovered the podcast American Icons by Studio 360 on WNYC. As the tittle indicates, this podcast explores several American Icons and how they became icons. The podcast goes from explaining more serious topics such as the Lincoln Memorial to less formal topics such as The Wizard of Oz. This ratio of topics makes the podcast appeal to a greater audience and gives more options to its listeners.

The Wizard of Oz Theatrical Poster. Image via Wikimedia Commons

American Icons is a well-done podcast that explains its different topics in an informal academic way. By doing this the audience feels its learning something new, but not taking a lecture. Another aspect of the podcast I enjoyed is how it interacts with the audience asking them questions, sparking curiosity, and challenging their knowledge. American Icons also makes historical connections to the episode’s topic, an example being Superman and the Jewish community that immigrated to America.

Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, son of Jewish immigrants that arrived in the United States in 1900. Image via Wikimedia Commons

 The podcast also incorporates the social factors that influenced America to create icons. An example of this would be the controversy surrounding the Vietnam Memorial. The controversy arose because of the anti-war sentiment the Vietnam War had and the proposal that was selected for the memorial. This memorial sparked sentiment and forced people to have a conversation about the war. The memorial is made of a black granite wall, in which visitors can see their reflection. In the memorial, the names written on the wall are on the order from the first soldier that died during the war to the last. This memorial was the first one of its kind making it and American icon. The podcast tangles perfectly the historical and social factors making the listener connect with the story.

Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Image via Wikimedia Commons

American Icons explains different aspects of American history in a thought-provoking way. The podcast brings different topics to the 21st century and allows its listeners to connect to different stories. This show connects historical, cultural, and social factors while appealing to a large audience.


Museum Podcasts, Visitor Engagement, and Accessibility

Intern Cara Bennet

Admission fees, location, and hours shouldn’t prevent people from accessing all the information that museums have to offer. Museum podcasts are a great solution to this problem. They allow people to learn from and engage with a museum for free whenever it’s convenient for them. Podcasts connect students living in remote locations like Alaska or Hawai’i to museums in Washington, D.C. despite time differences or their ability to travel. Podcasts give museums the opportunity to highlight certain objects in their collections and the roles of various staff members, discuss important issues in the museum field, and to promote upcoming exhibits and public programs. Podcasts also help museums keep visitors engaged by educating and continuing conversations long after they’ve left the museum.

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

This past week I’ve been listening to “Spycast” a podcast produced by the International Spy Museum. While I’ve been to the Spy Museum a few times before, I’ve already learned so much more about the museum and its collections from the podcast. Episodes feature interviews with authors, historians, and intelligence professionals. Some of my favorite episodes I’ve listened to so far are interviews with former intelligence professionals, particularly women that got started in the CIA in its early days as an agency. Listening to their first-hand accounts is fascinating and not necessarily something visitors could experience by just visiting the museum.

The episode of “Spycast” I’m listening to as I write this blog post.


Spies, Covert Ops, and Secrets, Oh My!

Intern Marisa Shultz

Admittedly, I have always been a bit iffy on podcasts. I am such a visual person that I even prefer to watch television and movies with subtitles, and I have had my fair share of run-ins with podcasts so poorly done that they have taken an interested topic and made it utterly boring. But, I have been pleasantly surprised, actually, way more than pleasantly surprised by SpyCast, put together by the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C.. One of the greatest beauties of the program is that the project began in 2006 and has had weekly installments since 2015, so for someone just discovering this gem, there are many episodes to explore and lots of content to learn. Also due to the series length, if a particular episode does not interest you, there are so many more to choose from.

However, it would be challenging to find an uninteresting episode, for the podcast prides itself on telling unusual and fascinating stories about a corner of history often shrouded in deceit and shadow.

While the scope of the show may be somewhat limited due to its subject (governmental intelligence, espionage, and their implications) the podcast covers a great deal of ground, both historical and modern, within that scope. From the Pope’s spies in World War II to the Pentagon Papers and everything in between both micro and macro, SpyCast covers it all.

While the extent of content and number of episodes is a huge bonus for the podcast, there are two major reasons it works so well. For one, the guests they choose to interview are always experts (often with recently published books) or individuals who have experience in the intelligence or espionage fields; the guests are always well-spoken, interesting, and insightful too.

The other reason is the podcast’s host: Dr. Vince Houghton.

Dr. Houghton does an excellent job at maintaining the programs energy and keeping the conversation flowing. He asks insightful questions that encourage the speakers to share their thoughts and experiences, and while he may tell a short anecdote from time to time, he largely allows the spotlight to be on the guest. Overall, I would say that SpyCast has found a formula that works brilliantly!


Nostalgic Tales from The Memory Palace

Intern Ash Turner

With a name like The Memory Palace, it’s easy to get a sense of what type of podcast you’ll be listening to: an artful sound piece, with swaying background music, and someone describing something to you as if it is his memory. Sleepy, wistful music was an apt choice for the background sound in the first episode I listened to, “Dreamland.”

“Dreamland at twilight, Coney Island, N.Y.” from the Library of Congress

In this episode, you hear a low voice, as if a bedtime story is being read to you, and you are slipping into sleep, mixing what is a dream with what is reality. But what is being told really happened, and you’re transported to the memory of this place—Dreamland on Coney Island. You’re slowly dipped into this time period, this piece of history. It is a story at the same time it is descriptively real, and in this way, it feels like a memory, where it sits comfortably somewhere between dream and reality.

“Ball room, Dreamland, Coney Island, N.Y.” from the Library of Congress

This way of telling history through sound creates an experience for the listener. I found myself pulled in through The Memory Palace’s sound design and detailed, almost nostalgic, historical descriptions. Some of the episodes were heavier with their facts and left me with a specific thought or critique about the historical subject. Other episodes were lighter and invoked a feeling of living in that period of time, or a sense of being in a certain place. I enjoyed that the episodes shifted between heavier and more wistful episodes, since some episodes and their subjects (such as “Hercules,” about George Washington’s slave who escaped to freedom) fit in better with a critical narrator, rather than with dewy-eyed descriptions.

The Memory Palace stands as its own memorable art piece, as its own sort of museum, weaving together fact with story and sound. Each episode is its own small experience, each like a historical artifact, to be taken in one by one.


Listening to the Voices of Survivors

Intern Ellie Smith

Podcasts allow museums to present information in a new way. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum utilizes podcast in order to share the stories of Holocaust survivors. Through their podcast series “First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors” audiences can listen to excerpts from longer interviews from survivors. These podcast are fairly short about five to fifteen minutes which allows the audience to listen to several in a small amount of time. There is something extremely powerful about hearing the stories of survival and Holocaust experiences from those who actually lived it. Reading a memoir does not provide the same experience as listening to the voices of survivors.

Knowing that some of these individuals have already passed away makes being able to listen to their stories more powerful.

This podcast series has a variety of different interviews. Some individuals talk about their experiences in the camps and others discuss death marches or Kristallnacht. The series allows audiences to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the copious experiences of the Holocaust. Often people only know about the camps; Auschwitz is all they know about the Holocaust. But this series allows listeners to gain knowledge of ghetto life, experiences of the death marches, transportations, and other parts of the Holocaust experience. I think this is a wonderful podcast series which allows people to personally connect to the stories of those who survived the Holocaust.

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