A Space for Complexity: Podcasts as Public History

My project seeks to illuminate the incongruity between ‘enshrined’ history and the infinite complexity that one observes when studying history. The ‘conversational’ format of a podcast, I argue, can potentially ‘fill the gaps’ that ‘enshrined’ histories leave and provide a complexity that other forms of public history, such as museum exhibitions, struggle to due to their form. Particularly in the Australian context, the careful selection of certain histories create misguided perceptions of the present that seep into various aspects of the society. This project, and podcasts in general, can be a worthwhile space in which non-historians can grapple with the infinite complexities of Australian history on the way to achieving the ultimate goal of a self-actualised national identity.  

My project is in collaboration with the Professional Historians Association ACT & NSW (PHA ACT & NSW), an organisation in which its members can continue professional development, network with other historians, and connect with potential clients for their work. The PHA also publishes articles and reviews in which historians can showcase their work, represent members in contractual and employment matters and provide potential guidance on engaging public historians for appropriate work conditions etc. The final project will involve interviews with various members in which we will discuss their historical practice, their work and a broad historical debate. The interview involves three questions that are asked to each interviewee, namely, what brought you to a career in history, have you ever experienced any obstacles when dealing with politically sensitive histories, how you do include reflexivity in your historical practice, and ends with a question about a large historical discussion relating to their area of research. For example, the interview I conducted with a historian who has worked a lot in Australian media history, particularly women’s experiences, ended with a quote from Anne Summers, ‘We have changed a lot, but we haven’t changed enough. I asked if she agreed with the quote, and what equality would look like in the Australian media landscape.

In addition to the podcast itself, I’m thinking about everything ‘around’ the project. I’ve decided on a name, ‘Chatting History’ and have created a logo (below) and will create bibliography-like document to include as the ‘shownotes’ for each episode. These will include the sources that I used to prepare and develop the questions for the interview and will explain anything in the interview that I feel is necessary, such as particular references to people who I feel some may not know.

I will also create a transcript of the interview (thankfully I’m using Soundtrap, which is editing software that generates a transcript for you) and will publish them on either the PHA NSW & ACT website or create a website entirely dedicated to the podcast, which will be linked to the PHA website. At the beginning of each episode will include an introduction to the interviewee, and the end will include instructions on where to get more information about the interviewee. This will aid in the potential of the podcasts to market the PHA ACT & NSW, and its members, to the public.