33 episodes

Shelf Life is a podcast from the Newberry Library about the humanities and the humans behind them. Each episode features a new conversation with librarians, curators, and researchers about anything from the history of the Chicago city grid to the secret lives of famous American authors.

Shelf Lif‪e‬ Newberry Library

    • History
    • 5.0 • 11 Ratings

Shelf Life is a podcast from the Newberry Library about the humanities and the humans behind them. Each episode features a new conversation with librarians, curators, and researchers about anything from the history of the Chicago city grid to the secret lives of famous American authors.

    Michelangelo's Handwriting

    Michelangelo's Handwriting

    In this episode, we’re joined by scholars Bill Wallace and Isabella Magni to dissect a letter written by Michelangelo in 1545. But we’re less interested in what the letter says than in the way it was written. What does Michelangelo’s style of handwriting reveal about who he was as an artist and how he saw himself in Renaissance Italian society? 

    • 18 min
    The Meaning of "Fa-La-La"

    The Meaning of "Fa-La-La"

    Non-lexical vocables—your fa-la-la’s and hey-nonny-no’s—didn’t originate as nonsense filler-syllables for brightening up a song. In Renaissance England, they were used to advance a song’s satirical critique of society or as a lyrical surrogate for something that couldn’t be expressed explicitly.

    Newberry research fellow Katie Bank tells us all about the history and legacy of non-lexical vocables.

    Host: Newberry Fellowships Manager Keelin Burke

    • 19 min
    The Quest for Gutenberg Fragments

    The Quest for Gutenberg Fragments

    Eric White, Curator of Rare Books at the Princeton University Library (and author of "Editio Princeps: A History of the Gutenberg Bible"), tells us about his quest to find the existing fragments of the Gutenberg Bible, two of which are right here at the Newberry. Eric speaks with Jill Gage, the Newberry’s curator of printing history.

    • 25 min
    The War on Bugs

    The War on Bugs

    Newberry conservators systematically intercept spiders, ants, book lice, and other bugs before they can reach the treasures in our collection. We speak with conservation staff about this important (and kind of gross) work, and then we join them as they patrol the deepest recesses of the library for pests. 

    • 24 min
    To Meme or Not To Meme

    To Meme or Not To Meme

    Book historian (and esteemed Twitter user) Sarah Werner discusses memes, reaction GIFs, and the promise and peril of being a library on social media.

    • 19 min
    Mourning Glory

    Mourning Glory

    “Not only does the wearing of black protect the mourner from unnecessary levity; but it reminds everyone else that they’ll eventually be in that position, too, and it stirs empathy.” Debra Mancoff, a scholar of art, culture, and fashion, walks us through the conventions and sartorial semiotics of mourning in Victorian England and America, and tells us how attitudes toward death and dying have changed over the years.
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    Intro music: "Two Types of Awakenings" by Nheap

    • 35 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
11 Ratings

11 Ratings

auntbetsyknits ,

Fascinating podcast

Shelf Life from the Newberry Library in Chicago provides intriguing conversations from curators and researchers at the Newberry, on topics from a Gwendolyn Brooks salad recipe, where page numbers came from, new perspectives on the American revolution. People who really know a lot about certain topics share their passion and information in a very accessible way. I enjoy it every time, even when it’s something I didn’t think I was interested in.

Eli522 ,

Entertaining and informative

This is a great new podcast. Each episode has the feel of a spontaneous conversation but at the same time is informative on a variety of relevant historical moments and concepts. Give it a listen!

RosieTyler-Freer ,

Very interesting and well done!

This podcast is proof that libraries ARE relevant, interesting and necessary in the digital age. Alex does an excellent job bringing an assortment of interesting but little known topics to the listener's attention. Plus it's one of the few podcasts with a really good intro. So many have annoying theme music. Good length too. Thanks!

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