Subscribing to new mediums
27 November 2018 – Emily Cuggy
Available to anyone with access to the internet and a pair of headphones, podcasts are arguably the most accessible medium in today’s public history landscape. They also have the potential to be the most far-reaching; unlike museums or historic sites that are largely confined to their physical location, a podcast can be transmitted to a global audience with just a few clicks.
There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts available on iTunes alone, and several hundred shows categorized under “History.” Know History, a Canadian historical research and consulting company, joined this list in 2018 with its own podcast, Notice History. From the history of playing cards to repatriation in Marvel’s Black Panther, the podcast focuses on the ways in which history is present in our daily lives.
Notice History is a unique project for Know History. While our work is otherwise client-driven, the podcast is funded and produced entirely in-house. Our audience is not a specific client, but a virtually limitless public. This is certainly a deviation from the work typically conducted in the consulting field; however, podcasting has proven to be a valuable medium for expanding public and professional networks, exploring and developing different interests, and contributing to the wider historical community.
Podcasting expands Know History’s public and professional networks by allowing us to reach and collaborate with an audience beyond our regular client base. Normally, our public is comprised of the individuals engaged by our clients, such as visitors to museum exhibits to which we have contributed. Through podcasting, our audience is determined only by listeners’ inclination to hit “play.” In addition to engaging a wider public audience, podcasting allows us to build relationships with professional collaborators. In a recent episode, hosts interviewed a reference archivist at Library and Archives Canada. In the future, we hope to include academics, museum curators, heritage experts, and other professionals.
In a field where research topics are guided by clients and projects, podcasting has provided an outlet for Know History employees to share research explored in graduate school, as well as previous work experiences and outside interests. Researching for a podcast has challenged team members to creatively express themselves through a new medium. Along with practicing different research skills, we have gained experience in all aspects of podcast production, from content writing and audio editing to distribution and social media management. These skills are applicable to other projects, whether it be audio editing for oral history interviews or assisting clients with project promotion.
The opportunity to give back to the historical community was perhaps the most significant motivation for establishing Notice History. Our show endeavors to increase listeners’ understanding of history and its influence on every aspect of our lives, while also providing insight on historical practice. Not only does the podcast educate and entertain a wide public audience, but it also gives the historical community a platform to disseminate their research and ideas. By inviting guests from the community to contribute research or co-host podcast episodes we hope to provide other historians with an avenue for sharing their passion with others.
Podcasting has proved a valuable and effective medium for Know History to share its own passion for history. As of mid-July 2018, Notice History will have released ten full episodes and six bonus episodes. It is still early days, but our listenership is growing, and we are continuing to hone our skills and make improvements. The podcast team is continually investigating new research and collaboration opportunities as we strive to increase interest and accessibility for historical knowledge and practice. We look forward to the new challenges and rewards that this exciting medium will bring.
~ Emily Cuggy, M.A. is a senior associate at Know History, a historical consulting firm based in Ottawa, Ontario. She is co-producer of Know History’s podcast, Notice History, and holds an MA in public history from Carleton University. You can find Emily on Twitter @emcugg