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Sidedoor

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Sidedoor

Smithsonian Institution

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More than 154 million treasures fill the Smithsonian’s vaults. But where the public’s view ends, Sidedoor begins. With the help of biologists, artists, historians, archaeologists, zookeepers and astrophysicists, host Lizzie Peabody sneaks listeners through the Smithsonian’s side door, telling stories that can’t be heard anywhere else. Check out si.edu/sidedoor and follow @SidedoorPod for more info.
 
A tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Museum Archipelago believes that no museum is an island and that museums are not neutral. Taking a broad definition of museums, host Ian Elsner brings you to different museum spaces around the world, dives deep into institutional problems, and introduces you to the people working to fix them. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let’s get started.
 
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As the Apollo 11 astronauts hurtled towards the moon on July 18th, 1969, members of the Nixon administration realized they should probably make a contingency plan. If the astronauts didn’t make it – or, even more horrible, if they made it to the moon and crashed and had no way to get back to earth – Richard Nixon would have to address the nation. T…
 
In 1890, Americans were delighted when they heard the news that Thomas Edison was using his phonograph technology to give voice to porcelain dolls. But their delight soon turned to horror. In this episode of Sidedoor, we’ll hear a short story that imagines what happens when two little girls receive one of Edison’s talking dolls as a holiday gift. A…
 
When Chiura Obata painted “Moonlight Over Topaz, Utah,” he was a prisoner at the camp: one of 120,000 Japanese Americans to be incarcerated during World War II. The painting shows a dreamy moonlit desert, with just a few dark lines to hint at the barbed wire fences and guard towers that held him and his family captive. As a painter, Obata turned ag…
 
There’s a new sculpture at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: a giant torch that’s strikingly familiar – and entirely unique. Artist Abigail DeVille has reimagined the Statue of Liberty’s torch to shine a light on historical contradictions of American freedom. Through her work, DeVille asks us to re-examine the stories we’ve i…
 
Public historian and writer Tegan Kehoe knows that museum visitors act differently around the same object presented in different contexts—like how the same visitor excited by a bayonet that causes a triangular wound in an exhibit of 18th-century weapons could be disgusted by that same artifact when it’s presented in an exhibit of 18th-century medic…
 
In 1969, noticing that technological progress was changing their fields, heads of Finish industry came together to found a technology museum in Finland. Today, the Museum of Technology in Helsinki is the only general technological museum in the country. But of course, technical progress didn’t stop changing, as service coordinator Maddie Hentunen n…
 
The “Men of Progress” painting, from 1862, shows the first Secretary of the Smithsonian surrounded by a group of scientists and inventors credited with “altering the course of contemporary civilization.” But what may be most remarkable about this tableau is who’s not there. To mark the 175th anniversary of the Smithsonian’s founding, the National P…
 
This summer – for the first time ever - skateboarding will be an Olympic sport. In honor of its Olympic debut, we’re revisiting one of our favorite episodes: the story of how the best women skateboarders stood toe-to-toe with the most powerful people in the industry to demand equal pay. One of those women is none other than Mimi Knoop, who is coach…
 
100 years ago, in the hills of West Virginia, Black, white and European immigrant coal miners banded together to demand better pay and safer working conditions and were met with machine guns. While the story made headlines in 1921, it didn't make it into the history books. In our final episode of the season, we unearth this buried history to help m…
 
The deliberate exclusion of Black history and the history of slavery in the American South has been slow to reverse. But Jazz Dottin, creator and host of the Black Gems Unearthed YouTube channel says it can be just as slow in New England. Each video features Dottin somewhere in her home state of Massachusetts, often in front of a plaque or historic…
 
In 1916, concerned that the remote Rhodope mountains would be hard to defend against foreign invaders, a young Bulgarian Kingdom decided to build a narrow gauge railway to connect villages and towns to the rest of the country. The Bulgarian King himself, Tsar Boris III, drove the first locomotive to the town of Belitsa to celebrate its opening. But…
 
LeRoy Neiman was a colorful man, both figuratively and literally. His handlebar mustache, long cigar, and sketchpad were fixtures at the sidelines of American pop culture: from boxing matches to jazz clubs and political conventions. His paintings, sketches, and prints papered the second half of the 20th century, highlighting American icons in his c…
 
One hundred years ago this week, from May 31 and June 1, 1921, a mob targeted and destroyed nearly 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows how many people died, no one was ever convicted, and no one really talked about it nearly a century later. This is the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why it's impor…
 
The Pleven Panorama transports visitors through time, but not space. The huge, hand-painted panorama features the decisive battles of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877–78, fought at this exact spot, which led to Bulgaria’s Liberation. The landscape of Pleven, Bulgaria depicted is exactly what you see outside the building, making it seem like you’re w…
 
In 1918, a flu pandemic killed more than 50 million people worldwide. Forty years later, it nearly happened again. This week on Sidedoor we go back to a time when the viruses were winning, and we remember one man, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, whose vaccine virtuosity helped turn the tide in the war against infectious diseases. We’ve updated this episode w…
 
Henrietta the river herring is not a particularly glamorous fish. But she’s got grit. Every summer, she swims out to the Atlantic ocean, and every spring, she makes the 500 mile journey back to Maryland’s Patapsco River, where she was born—a habitat that’s been only partially accessible to herring like her for more than a century. But this year wil…
 
Museums can be a shorthand for truth, or for history, or for what a culture values. Disney theme parks all around the world use fake museums as a tool to immerse visitors in the themed environment. This detailed world-building can make the imaginary universe more real—or provide a setup to subvert a narrative. But these fake museums aren’t the only…
 
When Lena Richard cooked her first chicken on television, she beat Julia Child to the screen by over a decade. At a time when most African American women cooks worked behind swinging kitchen doors, Richard claimed her place as a culinary authority, broadcasting in the living rooms of New Orleans’s elite white families. She was an entrepreneur, educ…
 
The Grove Museum inside the historic Call/Collins House is one of Tallahassee’s newest museums, and it’s changing how the city interprets its own history. Instead of focusing on the mansion house’s famous owners, including Florida Governor LeRoy Collins, Executive Director John Grandage oriented the museum around civil rights. Cleverly tracing how …
 
As Americans approach a full year of pandemic life, there’s an overwhelming sense of anticipation: when can we get vaccinated? What will life look like in six months? When will life return to normal? Maybe because looking outward feels so daunting, a lot of people are looking inward, through mindfulness and meditation. In this episode of Sidedoor, …
 
Dr. Tehmina Goskar, director of the Curatorial Research Centre, co-founded MuseumHour with Sophie Ballinger in October 2014. The weekly peer-to-peer chat on Twitter “holds space for debate” for museum people all around the world. This month, Goskar officially steps back from her role at MuseumHour. This episode serves as both an “exit interview” fo…
 
If you’ve heard the phrase, “full blooded,” you’re already familiar with the concept of blood quantum. But Native Americans are the only peoples in the United States whose identity is defined by it. Through the photography of Tailyr Irvine, displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian, we take a look at the colonial origin story of blood…
 
As an up-and-coming young blues singer in the 1950s, Barbara Dane faced a choice: fame and fortune, or her principles. She left the mainstream music industry and became a revolutionary music producer – literally. Spurred by Fidel Castro’s international gathering of protest singers, Dane created a record label that published the sounds of social cha…
 
During World War II, a Nazi collbatoring regime governed the south of France, and the city of Toulouse was a Resistance hub. The Vichy Government promoted anti-Semitism and collaborated with the Nazis, most specifically by deporting Jews to concentration and extermination camps. Fragmented Resistance fighters organized to form escape networks and b…
 
Wonder Woman is the best known female superhero of all time, but she’s been through a lot. The brainchild of a psychologist, Wonder Woman hit the comic pages in the 1940s as an antidote to the “bloodcurdling masculinity” of male superheroes. But by the early ‘70s, Wonder Woman was having a midlife crisis. She’d given up her bullet-blocking bracelet…
 
This week, we have an episode from the NHPR podcast “Outside/In” about passenger pigeons. The passenger pigeon is one of the world’s most symbolic extinction stories. It’s a cautionary tale of how in just a few short generations, one of the wonders of the world could be completely eradicated. But when that narrative was questioned in a popular book…
 
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