Christina Ribbens: Your State Has A Podcast

Christina Ribbens’ capstone project, Your State Has a Podcast, highlights examples of how state and jurisdictional humanities councils podcasts are carving their own niches in the booming podcast industry. Local humanities councils conduct their own programming in partnership with local cultural institutions, and award grants to local academics, experts, and organizations doing humanities work in their areas. In 2022, 17 humanities councils reported making their own podcast, but a whopping 70% were involved with podcasting in some capacity.

In her research, Ribbens found that she was “impressed by both the breadth and depth of these programs,” noting that, through podcasting, “councils have been able to present complex historical, cultural, and societal topics in ways that are both accessible and nuanced.” In particular, Ribbens highlights that these programs are great examples of the public humanities, a foundational pillar of the ENPH program. That being said, Ribbens also found that there are still logistical challenges faced by humanities councils in the technical aspects of producing and editing podcasts.

In her project, Ribbens highlights a few example council podcasts that are featured below:

Porchtales began in 2022 as the council emerged from turnover and restructuring after the pandemic. The council had an emphasis on oral history and Rebecca Lemos Otero, executive director, was excited about the potential of a podcast and has continued to prioritize it in their programming. The first two seasons of this podcast have focused on a notable DC resident, civil rights activist Sister Koko, as well as the history of Lanier Place, a historic DC neighborhood.

In creating the Mysterious Mountains podcast, WV Humanities Council Program Officer Kyle Warmack stated that they “needed a way to keep reaching people beyond the in-person programming that was temporarily suspended [during the pandemic]. … we wanted a humanities-related escape hatch for our constituents.”

Wyoming Humanities runs two podcasts: What’s Your Why and First But Last. The former is an interview-style podcast that welcomes individuals from all over the United States to speak about their life stories and how their history connects to the broader world around them. First But Last is a podcast that presents the story of women’s rights in Wyoming, and features women from all walks of life in the state.