Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

Uncommon Sense—the blog

Doing History

· January 22nd, 2016 · 1 Comment

An OI-sponsored monthly series on Liz Covart’s Ben Franklin’s World

It’s here! The introductory prequel to “Doing History,” a series of podcasts about how historians work and think created by Liz Covart for her popular show Ben Franklin’s World, is now available for download through your favorite podcast provider or for streaming via the Ben Franklin’s World site or the Omohundro’s own “Doing History” page. Karin Wulf discusses the OI’s exciting new venture in today’s post.


I remember when, almost two years, someone said they couldn’t believe that the Omohundro Institute might be interested in the new media genre of podcasting. “It’s just…radio!” True, but as all of us now know, podcasting is so much more. As anyone who’s stayed in the car to listen to the end of a story, or walked another ¼ mile to the get to the end of an in depth news analysis knows, podcasts provide a distinctive audio environment for learning, thinking about and enjoying new material.

We’re delighted to announce today the launch of “Doing History,” a monthly OI-sponsored series for 2016 on Ben Franklin’s World, Liz Covart’s podcast about Early American history and historians. Every fourth Tuesday Liz will host an episode devoted to talking with historians about the work they do. If history is the past, then doing history is the process of locating, selecting, assembling, and interpreting historical materials.

The “Doing History” project complements both Liz’s regular interviews with authors of historical scholarship and the OI’s emphasis on making transparent the processes of writing, editing, and producing excellent scholarship. In late 2014 we announced the Lapidus Initiative for Excellence and Innovation in Early American Scholarship, funded by a gift from Sid and Ruth Lapidus. An OI Board member and longtime supporter, Sid Lapidus was interested in “doing something for the OI that would make a difference.” In 2015 the Lapidus Initiative supported a host of new programs, including the OI Reader, the Scholars’ Workshop, and our participation as primary U.S. partners for the Georgian Papers Programme. The “Doing History” series is another Lapdius Initiative venture that we think has the potential to explore scholarship in new ways.

A number of current and former OI Council members have participated in the first episodes of “Doing History.”  You can hear former Council members—and Pulitzer prize-winners—Alan Taylor and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich along with Caroline Winterer and Rebecca Onion on the first, or rather the bonus, prequel episode. Simon Newman appears in the next. If you listen carefully you might hear former Council and Board member Roy Ritchie doing our NPR-like promotional announcement.

Honestly, we don’t know yet how such ventures will influence scholarship or help us to support scholars and scholarship in new ways. That’s part of what we’re finding out. Liz will be the OI’s Lapidus Initiative Assistant Editor for New Media for 2016, and she’s joining the Lapidus Initiative Advisory Group as they think about new ways that we can support and encourage new scholarly forms. We’re enjoying working with Liz, we’ve learned a lot, and we couldn’t be more excited about the series and her contributions to the OI.

What we do know is that the planned episodes are already exciting new listeners. Historians talking about why they are passionate about their work? Revealing their oddest and most thrilling archival finds? Commiserating about the hard and essential work of framing an historical argument? Listening that’s definitely worth another loop around the track.

We hope you’ll check it out.

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