97 episodes

A tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Museum Archipelago believes that no museum is an island and that museums are not neutral.
Taking a broad definition of museums, host Ian Elsner brings you to different museum spaces around the world, dives deep into institutional problems, and introduces you to the people working to fix them. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let’s get started.

Museum Archipelago Ian Elsner

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.9 • 92 Ratings

A tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Museum Archipelago believes that no museum is an island and that museums are not neutral.
Taking a broad definition of museums, host Ian Elsner brings you to different museum spaces around the world, dives deep into institutional problems, and introduces you to the people working to fix them. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let’s get started.

    97. Richard Nixon Hoped to Never Say These Words about Apollo 11. In A New Exhibit, He Does.

    97. Richard Nixon Hoped to Never Say These Words about Apollo 11. In A New Exhibit, He Does.

    As the Apollo 11 astronauts hurtled towards the moon on July 18th, 1969, members of the Nixon administration realized they should probably make a contingency plan. If the astronauts didn’t make it – or, even more horrible, if they made it to the moon and crashed and had no way to get back to earth – Richard Nixon would have to address the nation. That haunting speech was written but fortunately was never delivered.


    But you can go to the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City and watch Nixon somberly reciting those words. It looks like real historic footage, but it’s fake. Artists Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund used the text of the original address and media manipulation techniques like machine learning to create the synthetic Nixon for a film called In Event of Moon Disaster. It anchors an exhibit called Deepfake: Unstable Evidence on Screen.


    In this episode, Panetta and Burgund discuss how they created In Event of Moon Disaster as a way to highlight various misinformation techniques, the changing literacy of the general public towards media manipulation, and the effectiveness of misinformation in the museum medium.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 July 18th, 1969
    00:40 The Safire Memo
    01:38 Clip From In Event of Moon Disaster
    02:30 Nixon’s Telephone Call
    03:00 What is Deepfake?
    03:30 Halsey Burgund
    04:06 Francesca Panetta
    04:30 How They Did It
    04:50 Why This Speech?
    06:02 Deepfake: Unstable Evidence on Screen at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City
    07:05 Misinformation By Editing
    09:53 Misinformation and Medium
    10:23 Museums as Trustworthy Institutions
    11:27 What Would a “Deepfake Museum Gallery” Look Like?
    13:43 In Event of Moon Disaster
    14:00 Outro | Join Club Archipelago 🏖


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Support Museum Archipelago Directly 🏖️


    Club Archipelago offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly.

    Join the Club for just $2/month.

    Your Club Archipelago membership includes:
    Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show;
    Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums;
    Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door;
    A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast.










    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 97. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript




    Welcome to Museum Archipelago. I'm Ian Elsner. Museum Archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.


    On July 18th, 1969, members of the Nixon administration realized they should probably make a contingency plan. If the Apollo 11 astronauts who were hurtling towards the moon, on their way to be the first humans to land on its surface, didn’t make it to the moon – or, even more horrible, if they made it to the moon and crashed and had no way to get back to earth – Nixon would have to address the nation.


    So Nixon’s speech writer, William Safire wrote an address titled “In Event of Moon Disaster.” It’s a short, haunting speech – the first time that billions of people on earth would learn about the failed Apollo 11 mission. Safire notes that before delivering the speech, Nixon “should telephone each of the widows-to-be.” Widows-to-be because Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin wouldn’t be dead yet, just stranded on the moon with no hope of recovery.



    Halsey Burgund: The astronauts are still alive. I mean that – every time

    • 14 min
    96. Tegan Kehoe Explores American Healthcare Through 50 Museum Artifacts

    96. Tegan Kehoe Explores American Healthcare Through 50 Museum Artifacts

    Public historian and writer Tegan Kehoe knows that museum visitors act differently around the same object presented in different contexts—like how the same visitor excited by a bayonet that causes a triangular wound in an exhibit of 18th-century weapons could be disgusted by that same artifact when it’s presented in an exhibit of 18th-century medicine. Kehoe, who specialises in the history of healthcare and medical science, is attuned to how objects can inspire empathy, especially in the healthcare context.


    Kehoe’s new book, Exploring American Healthcare through 50 Historic Treasures, looks for opportunities for empathy in museum exhibits all around the U.S. Each of the 50 artifacts presented in the book becomes a physical lens through which to examine the complexities of American society’s relationship with health, from a 1889 bottle of “Hostetter’s Celebrated Stomach Bitters” that claimed to cure a host of ailments to activist Ed Roberts’s power wheelchair that he customized to work with his range of motion.


    In this episode, Kehoe describes how her work has helped her see tropes in the way museums tend to present medical topics and artifacts, how the aura of medical expertise is often culturally granted, and how living through the current coronavirus pandemic changed her relationship with many of the artifacts.


    Image: Ed Roberts's Wheelchair, National Museum of American History. Treasures of American History online exhibition.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 The Old State House “Weapons of the American Revolution” and “Medicine and the American Revolution”
    01:35 Tegan Kehoe
    02:00 Exploring American Healthcare Through 50 Historic Treasures
    02:30 How Museums Tend to Present Medical History
    05:40 Who Is “Worthy” of the Most Care?
    08:02 Ed Roberts’s Power Wheelchair
    10:06 Ambulance Damaged in the 9/11 Attacks
    11:28 Lessons from the Latest Pandemic
    13:41 Pre-Order Exploring American Healthcare Through 50 Historic Treasures
    14:00 Outro | Join Club Archipelago 🏖


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Support Museum Archipelago Directly 🏖️


    Club Archipelago offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly.

    Join the Club for just $2/month.

    Your Club Archipelago membership includes:
    Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show;
    Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums;
    Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door;
    A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast.










    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 96. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    Welcome to Museum Archipelago. I'm Ian Elsner. Museum Archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.


    Museum curator and historian Daniel Neff used to present tours in the Old Statehouse Museum in Boston, the site of the Boston Massacre in 1770. One tour was called “Weapons of the American Revolution” and went into gory detail of the carnage inflicted by bayonets and musket balls.


    At the same museum, Neff also presented a tour called “Medicine and the American Revolution,” often featuring the same grizzly battle wounds.


    As his colleague and today’s guest Tegan Kehoe recalls, Neff started to notice a difference between the way visitors responded to each of the tours.



    Tegan Kehoe: He remarked a number of times that visitors who seemed otherwise te

    • 14 min
    95. The Museum of Technology in Helsinki, Finland Knows Even the Most Futuristic Technology Will One Day Be History

    95. The Museum of Technology in Helsinki, Finland Knows Even the Most Futuristic Technology Will One Day Be History

    In 1969, noticing that technological progress was changing their fields, heads of Finish industry came together to found a technology museum in Finland. Today, the Museum of Technology in Helsinki is the only general technological museum in the country.


    But of course, technical progress didn’t stop changing, as service coordinator Maddie Hentunen notes, and that can be challenging for a museum to keep up.


    In this episode, Hentunen describes the museum’s philosophical stance on technology, how the museum balances industrial development with more open source design practices, and how the museum thinks about its own obsolescence.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 1969 in Technology
    00:49 Maddie Hentunen
    01:02 The Museum of Technology in Helsinki, Finland
    02:34 The Museum’s Building
    03:51 Original Exhibits
    04:50 Today’s Exhibits
    07:07 The Museum’s Philosophical Stance on Technology
    10:29 Outro | Join Club Archipelago 🏖


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️


    If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly.

    Join the Club for just $2/month.

    Your Club Archipelago membership includes:
    Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show;
    Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums;
    Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door;
    A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast.










    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 95. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    Ian Elsner: Welcome to Museum Archipelago. I'm Ian Elsner. Museum Archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.


    Ian Elsner: 1969 was a banner year for technological advancement: for one, it’s the year humans first walked on the moon. It was also -- and this is not unrelated to technological advancement -- right in the middle of the Cold War.



    Maddie Hentunen: 1969 in Finland was kind of a fraught time politically in a way that it was still the era of the cold war and we're right next to Russia.


    Maddie Hentunen: So our political relationship with Russia has always been kind of a tightrope. We've always gazed eastwords with care and especially at that time.



    Ian Elsner: This is Maddie Hentunen, service coordinator at the Museum of Technology in Helsinki, Finland.



    Maddie Hentunen: Hello. My name is Maddie Hentunen, and right now I am the service coordinator here in the museum of technology in Helsinki, Finland.



    Ian Elsnsr: The museum of technology was founded in that banner year of 1969 by heads of Finish industries. The idea was to make a general technology museum in Finland. The point is that it’s not siloed by industrial sector.



    Maddie Hentunen: I think at that point, the global sort of Zeitgeist, the technology of the time was taking massive leaps forward. So at that time there were these, let's say there was a coalition in a very loose meaning of the word of these gigantic, in Finish scale, gigantic, industry had sort of, let's say, the forest industry, which in Finland has always been massive And then there was the metal industry, which includes the mining industry and, and the chemistry industry thinks like this, who felt the need for some kind of preservation because they started to, in their respective fields, notice that things are changing. And a lot of the o

    • 11 min
    94. Jazz Dottin Guides Viewers Through Massachusetts’s Buried Black History

    94. Jazz Dottin Guides Viewers Through Massachusetts’s Buried Black History

    The deliberate exclusion of Black history and the history of slavery in the American South has been slow to reverse. But Jazz Dottin, creator and host of the Black Gems Unearthed YouTube channel says it can be just as slow in New England. Each video features Dottin somewhere in her home state of Massachusetts, often in front of a plaque or historical marker, presenting what’s missing, excluded, or downplayed.


    The history discussed on Black Gems Unearthed has been left out by conventional museums, which are among the most trustworthy institutions in modern American life, according to the American Alliance of Museums. This trust may have more to do with power than truth-telling — and today, there are many different ways to build trust with an audience online. Shows like Dottin’s might point to where our new relationship with the authoritative voice is heading.


    In this episode, Dottin describes how working as tour guide and creating travel itineraries influences her work today, how she came up with the idea for Black Gems Unearthed, and what the future holds.


    Image: Jazz Dottin in front of Emancipation in Boston, Mass.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 “Always Read The Plaque”
    00:45 Jazz Dottin
    01:00 Black Gems Unearthed
    01:20 Hopkinton, Massachusetts
    02:00 Exploring Black lives in MetroWest, MA in the 1700s - Black Gems Unearthed
    02:26 Museum Archipelago 42. Freddi Williams Evans and Luther Gray Are Erecting Historic Markers on the Slave Trade in New Orleans
    02:55 The Legacy of Slavery in New England
    03:50 Working as a Tour Guide
    05:35 The Idea for Black Gems Unearthed
    08:21 Museums and Trustworthiness
    09:36 Where The Name Comes From
    10:10 Outro | Join Club Archipelago 🏖
    11:39 What’s It Like Giving A Tour on A Segway?


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️


    If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly.

    Join the Club for just $2/month.

    Your Club Archipelago membership includes:
    Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show;
    Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums;
    Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door;
    A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast.










    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 94. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    Welcome to Museum Archipelago. I'm Ian Elsner. Museum Archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.


    There’s a saying among history nerds: always read the plaque.



    Roman Mars: “Always read the plaque.”



    But of course, the plaques don’t tell the whole story. Maybe a better mantra would be “start by reading the plaque.”



    Jazz Dottin: If I see plaques, I have to stop and read them. But with Black history, you know, there's not as many plaques, if any at all that are describing events and people and things that have happened in different areas across the country.



    This is Jazz Dottin, creator and host of a new YouTube channel called Black Gems Unearthed.



    Jazz Dottin: Hello, my name is Jazz Dottin and I am the host of Black Gems Unearthed, which is a YouTube series where I talk about Black history around the state of Massachusetts.


    So I am an experienced tour guide. I develop travel programs and itineraries, and now I'm working in the academic world at a university

    • 11 min
    93. Bulgaria’s Narrow Gauge Railway Winds Through History. Ivan Pulevski Helped Turn One of Its Station Stops Into a Museum.

    93. Bulgaria’s Narrow Gauge Railway Winds Through History. Ivan Pulevski Helped Turn One of Its Station Stops Into a Museum.

    In 1916, concerned that the remote Rhodope mountains would be hard to defend against foreign invaders, a young Bulgarian Kingdom decided to build a narrow gauge railway to connect villages and towns to the rest of the country. The Bulgarian King himself, Tsar Boris III, drove the first locomotive to the town of Belitsa to celebrate its opening. But the Septemvri - Dobrinishte Narrow Gauge Railway would far outlast the King and the Kingdom, the communist era that followed, and the rocky post-communst period.


    Today, the railway is still a fixture of life in the region as a vital link to remote villages with no road access. But decades of neglect have left many stations crumbling. Train enthusiast Ivan Pulevski, a member of the organization “For The Narrow Gauge Railway,” helped found the House-Museum of the Narrow Gauge Railway in one of these abandoned stations. A sign on the building says the museum was built “for people, by people.”


    In this episode, Pulevski describes the decision to build the museum using only volunteers, how to interpret multiple eras of Bulgarian history through the lens of a railway, and why they have had no plans to seek official museum accreditation in Bulgaria.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Winding Through History
    00:50 Septemvri–Dobrinishte narrow-gauge line
    01:10 Ivan Pulevski
    01:33 Stoyan Mitov and the Engineering of the Railway
    03:20 Tsar Boris III
    03:50 The House-Museum of the Narrow Gauge Railway
    04:40 No Electricity and No Water Supply
    05:30 After The Collapse of the Communist Era
    05:55 Organization "For The Narrow Gauge Railway"
    06:32 Restoring the Building / Making the Museum
    08:30 Bulgarian Museum Regulations
    10:10 Outro | Join Club Archipelago 🏖


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️


    If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly.

    Join the Club for just $2/month.

    Your Club Archipelago membership includes:
    Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show;
    Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums;
    Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door;
    A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast.










    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 93. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    Welcome to Museum Archipelago. I'm Ian Elsner. Museum Archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.


    The waiting room of Tsepina Station, south of the Bulgarian city of Septemvri in the Rhodope mountains, sits under the watchful eye of portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Georgi Dimitrov -- the revolutionary communitst leaders of Russia and Bulgaria respectively. But the communist period is only one of the eras of Bulgarian history the narrow gauge railway winds its way through.


    Construction on the railway, and the station, began in 1920, when a young Bulgarian Kingdom was concerned that the remote Rhodope mountains would be hard to defend against foreign invaders. Today, the railway is still a fixture of life in the region. Each day, 10 times a day, a diesel train passes by the station.



    Ivan Pulevski: Many people rely on this railway because it's their only transport, their only way of transport, because there are many villages

    • 11 min
    92. The Pleven Panorama Museum Transports Visitors Through Time, But Not Space

    92. The Pleven Panorama Museum Transports Visitors Through Time, But Not Space

    The Pleven Panorama transports visitors through time, but not space. The huge, hand-painted panorama features the decisive battles of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877–78, fought at this exact spot, which led to Bulgaria’s Liberation. The landscape of Pleven, Bulgaria depicted is exactly what you see outside the building, making it seem like you’re witnessing the battle on an observation point.


    Bogomil Stoev is a historian at the Pleven Panorama, which opened in 1977. The opening was timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Ottoman Empire’s surrender following the battles and the siege of Pleven. The building itself is etched with the story of the siege and the battles, and because the landscape is filled with the remains of the combattants, this was the only structure allowed to be built on the spot.


    In this episode, Stoev describes how the creators of the Pleven Panorama learned from previous panoramas, how the museum contextualizes the history of Bulgaria’s Liberation, and how this museum has become a symbol of the city of Pleven.


    Topics and Notes


    00:00 Intro
    00:15 Skobelev Park and the Remains of the Dead
    01:06 Bogomil Stoev, Historian at the Pleven Panorama
    01:36 Our Story Begins in the 14th Century
    01:58 April Uprising
    02:40 The Start of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877–78
    03:10 The Pleven Panorama
    05:16 General Skobelev
    06:00 General Totleben
    06:10 The Siege of Pleven
    07:00 December 10th, 1977
    07:40 Episodes 47 and 54 of Museum Archipelago
    08:07 Building the Museum
    08:46 A Brief History of Panoramas
    10:15 Pleven’s Enduring Symbol
    11:20 Outro | Join Club Archipelago 🏖


    Museum Archipelago is a tiny show guiding you through the rocky landscape of museums. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, or even email to never miss an episode.



    Unlock Club Archipelago 🏖️


    If you like episodes like this one, you’ll love Club Archipelago. It offers exclusive access to Museum Archipelago extras. It’s also a great way to support the show directly.

    Join the Club for just $2/month.

    Your Club Archipelago membership includes:
    Access to a private podcast that guides you further behind the scenes of museums. Hear interviews, observations, and reviews that don’t make it into the main show;
    Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️, a bonus bad-movie podcast exclusively featuring movies that take place at museums;
    Logo stickers, pins and other extras, mailed straight to your door;
    A warm feeling knowing you’re supporting the podcast.










    Transcript
    Below is a transcript of Museum Archipelago episode 92. Museum Archipelago is produced for the ear, and only the audio of the episode is canonical. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, refer to the links above.




    View Transcript



    Skobelev Park just South of the Bulgarian city of Pleven looks like a typical Bulgarian park. A pleasant place to sit on a bench, walk around with friends, and enjoy the day.


    Which it is.


    But to the people of Pleven, the area has another name. It's known as the Valley of Death, the site of the decisive battle of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, which ultimately led to Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman Empire after 500 years.



    Bogomil Stoev: Around 70, 80 thousand people, they died here and their remainings, they are here. They were not buried in the cemetery. They were using the trenches and they would put the bodies and just put mud on them. So here we cannot dig. You cannot do anything, any kind constructions and this is why when they built the museum in 1977, we are the only structure here.



    This is Bogomil Stoev, a historian at the Pleven Panorama museum — the only structure in Skobelev Park.



    Bogomil Stoev: Hello, my name is Bogomil Stoev. I'm a historian and I work in the museum Panorama Pleven and this is actually my job to work with visitors, to show the fights and the history of our city, city

    • 12 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
92 Ratings

92 Ratings

sofiaApartment ,

That voice!

Bison on Horseback brought back some great memories.

Great podcast!

Adam Jared ,

Museum archipelago

I love this podcast. Ian Elsner takes me on a journey to museums all over the world. I look forward to every new episode!

<<a.morris>> ,

Better than the msueum placard!!

I love listening to Museum Archipelago because it approahes cultural institutions with such an open mind. It has changed how I think when I go into a museum myself. Bonus: the host has a great professor voice.

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