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Do You Like Podcasts about Museums? Want to Start Your Own?

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

One of the BEST PARTS of the virtual Future of Museums Summit is going to be the breakout sessions at the end of each day. Many of the moderators and speakers have volunteered to join attendees in virtual rooms later on the day of their talks to follow up on them. Some are using this time for extended Q&A; others have recruited people to join them in an expanded discussion around their topic.

[The Summit will take place on November 1-2. If you are not signed up, you can register here.]

One breakout I’m particularly looking forward to will explore “the essentials of museum podcasting” on November 2, from 3:45 – 4:45 ET, led by Jeff Martin, Director of Communications at the Philbrook Museum of Art. Jeff hosts one of my favorite museum podcasts—the award-winning Museum Confidential. It covers a huge range of topics, both serious and light, about the inner workings of museums, museum history, art and culture. One particularly stellar set of episodes from 2021 resulted from the museum partnering with the Greenwood Art Project, an initiative of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, on a series examining the lessons of that grim event.

Though the topics are often serious, Jeff’s interviews are often leavened with humor. One of my favorite features of the podcast are the fictional “sponsor credits,” praising the importance of everything museum, from registrars to label copy. Here is one example from their episode on the Museum of Ice Cream:

“Today’s episode of Museum Confidential is sponsored by carpet. Stoic, unflappable, long-suffering, industrial…just a few of the ways to describe the unsung, under-your-feet, foundational material of most museums. In a world full of easy-to-clean tile, wall-to-wall linoleum, and stained concrete, many museums remain committed to the warm comfort of carpet. Stains be damned; carpet confronts adversity and says, “Bring it on!” Red wine reception with donors? No problem. Field trip of third graders on a rainy day? Big whoop. And don’t be thrown off by that nervous service dog. You got this! We at Museum Confidential wish to endorse carpet with every fiber of our being.”

I highly recommend you subscribe to Museum Confidential, and join us on November 2 to hear about some of the secrets of its success.

Speaking of museum podcasts, here are a few other favorites on my phone:

  • Artifactuality from the Canadian Museum of History, which imagines a museum of the future made up of the stories we tell each other about our lives and our histories. One recommended episode: “We Have Always Been Here – Conversations with Blackfoot Elders about archaeology, time and territory,” in which Elders Kent Ayoungman and Jerry Potts say that, “while new advances in archaeology make it indispensable for establishing the historical Indigenous presence in North America, Blackfoot creation stories, material culture, and art must be considered in tandem with archaeological findings and theories.”
  • Out of the Archives, an oral history podcast from the National Public Housing Museum sharing stories from public housing residents. My father grew up in the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative in the Bronx (the oldest limited equity affordable housing coop in the US). The stories on this podcast resonate with the Coops’ emphasis on the importance of building not just housing, but community.
  • Take this Token from the Foundling Museum. This one is so awesome, and so sad. As the museum explains, “Between the 1740s and 1760s, mothers leaving their babies at the Foundling Hospital would also leave a small object as a means of identification. The hope was that they would one day be able to reclaim their child.” Each of the eight episodes in this podcast features a writer, artist, historian or former pupils of the Foundling Hospital exploring one token that captured their imagination. Have Kleenex at the ready.
  • Tilling the Soil, from the Whitney Plantation, discusses the “unique intersection” of history, preservation, race, and storytelling that goes into creating their visitor experience. You might start with the episode “Ancestors at the Table,” in which Chef Toya Boudy discusses how food can be the nexus for healing, healthfulness and identity. (A subject near and dear to my futurist heart. Check out the resources from CFM’s project on Feeding the Spirit: Museums, Food and Community, including videos, and a free PDF sharing stories about how museums can serve as catalysts for community action on food and nutrition.)

Please use the comments section below to share some of your favorite podcast series and episodes!

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