More than ever people are turning to podcasts as a source for ‘edutainment’. This year it’s estimated that twenty-two million people in the US will tune in weekly to podcasts (Infinite Dial, 2019). That’s a ton! Granted, not all those millions are seeking episodes with the education slant, yet there are great numbers who seek both entertainment and education and some (like me) are looking for arts and museum shows.
Yet finding them is a challenge—quality podcasts in the museum and cultural arts realm are scarce. But I found a handful; I shared my favorite five in an article in April and since then I’ve found another three I share here. They’re all quite different, but each ranks high in quality of content and delivery.
1. National Gallery of Art Podcast
This show features lectures on the collection and special exhibitions of the National Gallery of Art (NGA), Washington, D.C. I’ve listened to several episodes in the past and found them somewhat dry (episodes are recordings of lectures delivered to audiences at the museum, without the benefit of visuals). However, I’ve re-discovered the show. It’s now one of my favorites due to the 14-part series with NGA’s senior lecturer, David Gariff. The lecture series, Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art coincides with the museum’s newly renovated East building featuring its 20th century collection in a chronological story.
Even without images the hour-long episodes are excellent—engaging, interesting, sometimes funny. Garriff doesn’t read from a script but tells stories of the artists and various art movements. Some of his best episodes: German Expressionism and Degenerate Art and Henri Matisse and Fauvism. These episodes along with the others were posted in August 2018.
I typically listen on-the-go, but if you are able to access the web while listening, you can look up the images of artworks Gariff refers to. Check out www.nga.gov or google. The visuals enrich the experience but aren’t necessary; I learned a great deal just by listening.
2. Museum Archipelago
A terrific show that delves into issues and challenges with museums and cultural institutions with bite-sized episodes, no more than fifteen minutes each. The host, Ian Elsner interviews museum founders, directors and people working in the museum world. What’s unique is Elsner seeks out smaller institutions, museums outside of the United States, and people working in the museum-world, some not associated with large institutions. Perspectives shared are fresh, and real.
Three of my favorite episodes: #46, with Vessela Gercheva, Director of the first children’s museum in Bulgaria, #45 with Margaret Middleton, an independent museum professional who designs children’s exhibits. Her perspective on making museums approachable for both visitors and people working in the field is thought-provoking. Episode #61 features Dr. Jody Steele who manages Australia’s Port Historical Authority and sites like the Female Factory which tells the story of female convicts transported from Britain to Australia in the 1800s. Really interesting.
“The show believes that no museum is an island and that museums are not neutral” — museumarchipelao.com
3. Great Lives, BBC Radio 4
Great Lives is not about art or museums specifically but features biographies of ‘great’ people of history—individuals from antiquity to those who have recently passed. Episodes, thirty-minutes in length, are never dull, are always interesting. I love the host, Matthew Parker, who interviews a guest (usually famous in some way or another) who nominates a ‘great life’ along with an expert, someone with deep knowledge of the nominee.
Episodes have featured artists, like the episode on Marcel Duchamp, nominated by artist Cornelia Parker, with the expert, a Professor of the History of Art at the Royal Academy in London (aired December 12, 2017). Others have highlighted patrons of the arts, like Catherine de Medici (April 18, 2019) and Catherine the Great, (June 1, 2018).
There are numerous episodes on authors, musicians and one of my favorites—the episode on Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein (May 17, 2019).