Submitted by: Megan Osetek, Kalamazoo Valley Museum
The advent of the pandemic brought about many challenges for museums. Few of these were universal; each museum had its own unique tribulations. However, a common issue that many small to midsize museums had to confront was digital initiatives. Now that visitors were not allowed onsite, museums had to figure out ways to connect with patrons. The obvious answer was digitally. However, many institutions were not equipped to pursue ambitious virtual exhibits and programs. The Kalamazoo Valley Museum, likewise, did not have a digital strategy already in place. Nevertheless, something had to be done.
As a result, the museum created a podcast entitled The Kalamazoo Valley Museum Interpretive Hour. This piece of digital adult programming has a core mission: “The Kalamazoo Valley Museum’s Interpretive Hour podcast provides engaging, thoughtful, quality, meaningful, and inclusive content on the field of interpretation to adult museum and park professionals, volunteers, goers, and students. It will do so through open conversation between moderators and professionals on various facets of the interpretive profession. The podcast will cement the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in the museum community as an interpretainment leader and enhance its outreach to diverse institutions and peoples.”
But how did the team come to this mission? What was the process?
Although it may seem daunting, any museum can and should create a podcast. This popular medium, which streams audio shows through different platforms and applications, is on the rise. According to 2020 stats provided by Discover Pods, a website dedicated to information on podcasts, 51% of Americans have listened to a podcast at least once in their life, and 32% of Americans have listened to a podcast within the past month. In the group of Americans who listen to podcasts, 82.4% of them listen to podcasts for more than 7 hours each week. That is a large demographic.
But with such a big demographic, an institution has to find its niche. After listening to Your Museum Needs a Podcast by Hannah Hethmon, interpreters Jacob Wolf and Gray Willson, as content creators, concluded that interpretation would be their niche. At that time, no podcasts explored such a topic; therefore, it seemed important to tackle. Megan Osetek, as Interpretation Manager, supervised the content, and interpreter Joshua Higginbotham, with his years of recording experience, became the audio engineer. But it took several months before the podcast launched in September. These months included a proposal to the Museum’s Director, episode re-recordings, approval from Marketing for design decisions, guest recordings, a delayed microphone order, and many more tribulations. Nonetheless, the team persevered and launched their first episode on September 16, 2020.
So now it is your museum’s turn. Our team recommends reading Hannah Hethmon’s book, Your Museum Needs a Podcast, and consulting several videos and other museum podcasts. Find your niche! And remember, it will not be easy, but the results will be rewarding and valuable, during and after the pandemic. To learn more, follow the podcast on Apple, Spotify, or the KVM website.
DiscoverPods. “Podcast Statistics and Figures 2020.” Accessed May 27, 2020. https://discoverpods.com/podcast-statistics/
Hethmon, Hannah. Your Museum Needs a Podcast: A Step-By-Step Guide to Podcasting on a Budget for Museums, History Organizations, and Cultural Nonprofits. 2018.
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