How Podcasting Helps Historians

The goal of every historian, especially public historians, is to have their work and the history they love be shared with the masses. With today’s technology, this goal becomes much easier to attain. Not only can historians post their written work to online academic journals, they can also reach a whole new audience with technological advancements such as online exhibits and of course podcasts.

Podcasts have become increasingly popular with college-aged young adults, who don’t necessarily have the time or the want to sit down and read a full historic monograph, many of which are over two-hundred pages. Rather than reading a text that could take hours, most podcasts last less than one hour. This allows young adults to fit them into their schedule better. They can listen to a podcast while they are at the gym or while they are driving, allowing for greater multitasking which has become a staple in the young adult life.

Other than the allowance of multitasking, podcasts also create new ways of looking at the history of the world. In academic settings, most classes focus on either wars or presidents or major events in a countries history, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall or the attacks on 9/11. These types of history may appeal to other academic historians, the masses in America might not agree. Being the only history major in my family, I can see this first hand. My family could care less about the statistics around America’s involvement in World War II, or to go even earlier, who the first settlers were. Unless they can relate it to their own lives, people are less likely to want to learn history. These podcasts come in handy because they can be created around any number of historical subjects.

One museum institution does this very well. The Smithsonian’s SideDoor podcast has episodes on a vast number of topics, from the traditional historic topics such as the Cold War and colonial enslavement to more fun topics such as food history and culture, as well as the history of beer. By giving audiences these more interesting and fun topics in this new technology based format, public historians are creating a new group of history students; these students are more eager to learn than ever before because they have found a way to make history work for them.


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