Podcast

Sidedoor

More than 154 million treasures fill the Smithsonian’s vaults. But where the public’s view ends, Sidedoor begins. With the help of biologists, artists, historians, archaeologists, zookeepers and astrophysicists, host Lizzie Peabody sneaks listeners through the Smithsonian’s side door, telling stories that can’t be heard anywhere else. Check out si.edu/sidedoor and follow @SidedoorPod for more info.

Episodes

  • Apollo 12's Really Close Call

    Nov 13 2019

    On November 14, 1969, just four months after Apollo 11’s “giant leap for mankind,” the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket took off for the moon. Seconds later, a burst of static plunged the three-man crew into complete darkness while speeding toward space in a nearly dead spacecraft. For the 50th anniversary, we tell the often-overlooked story of Apollo 12, one full of danger, discovery, and the power of friendship.

  • Dynamite!

    Oct 30 2019

    In its heyday, dynamite was a transformative tool; it could blast rock quarries, excavate tunnels, and demolish buildings with power and reliability never before seen. But it also proved to be useful in some surprising ways. In this special episode of Sidedoor, we team up with the history podcast Backstory to explore two less-typical applications of the explosive: the artistic blasting at Mount Rushmore, and how anarchists used dynamite to advance their political agenda in 1886.

  • This Episode Smells

    Oct 16 2019

    Smell connects us to memories of the people and the places of our lives. But what if it could connect us to a past we’ve never experienced? That's the goal for one team of artists and scientists who used DNA to try to revive the scent of a flower extinct for more than a century.

  • The Dinosaur War

    Oct 02 2019

    Behind the fossilized teeth, bones, and claws displayed in the National Museum of Natural History’s new Fossil Hall is the story of two men and a nasty feud. During the paleontology boom of the late 1800s, scientists O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope went from good friends who named species after each other, to the bitterest of enemies who eventually ruined each other's lives and careers. Come for the dinos, stay for the grudges. Episode originally aired June 12, 2019.

  • The Woman in the Frame

    Sep 18 2019

    Did you know that Martha Washington was essential to America’s Revolutionary War effort? Or that Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force behind the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights? According to journalist, writer, and commentator Cokie Roberts, many of America's First Ladies were dynamic, politically engaged trailblazers who are often overlooked. We sit down with the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery director, Kim Sajet, to talk about a recent episode of the museum’s ...more

  • Field Trip!

    Sep 04 2019

    Sidedoor hits the road, sneaking behind the scenes for the ultimate Smithsonian field trip we never took as kids. Lizzie and producer Justin O'Neill journey by bike, train, and even horse (okay, plastic horse) in a romp from museum to museum, encountering a hungry predator, a group of Broadway monsters, the last work of an iconic painter, and lots more. Join us! Links from the episode: Hokusai's Under the Wave off Kanagawa (aka "The Great Wave") at the Freer Gallery   Tarantula Feeding...more

  • Memory, Myth & Miniatures

    Aug 21 2019

    David Levinthal is a New York-based artist whose photography depicts “the America that never was but always will be.” He uses toys to recreate iconic moments in American history and pop culture, encouraging his audience to question America’s collective memory. Sidedoor visits Levinthal in his studio, and an exhibition of his work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum titled “American Myth & Memory: David Levinthal Photographs” to explore the distinction between fact and fable. Click here...more

  • The Wild Orchid Mystery

    Aug 07 2019

    You probably know orchids as the big, colorful flowers found in grocery stores and given as housewarming gifts. But those tropical beauties represent only a fraction of the estimated 25,000 orchid species worldwide. While their showy relatives fly off the shelves, North America’s more understated native orchids are disappearing in the wild. Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center are working to protect these orchids and their habitats, but first they need to solve a surprisin...more

  • Things You'd Never Tell Your Parents

    Jul 24 2019

    Regie Cabico has been called the "Lady Gaga of Spoken Word poetry"—he's outspoken, provocative and iconoclastic. The son of Filipino immigrants living in rural Maryland, Regie says he’ll never be “entirely American or entirely Filipino,” and on stage he uses his poetry to explore identity, social issues, and (of course) love. Regie joins Sidedoor *in studio* for an exclusive live performance, and even offers some poetic cooking tips from the annals of American history.

  • Space Jocks & Moon Rocks

    Jul 10 2019

    When NASA’s Apollo 11 mission sent the first astronauts to the moon 50 years ago, there were many things we didn’t know. Like whether the moon’s surface would turn out to be a field of quicksand, if space germs would infect the astronauts, or what exactly the moon was made of. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we join forces with the National Air and Space Museum’s podcast, AirSpace, to explore the mysteries of lunar science: what we didn't know then, and what we...more

  • The Worst Video Game Ever?

    Jun 26 2019

    Deep within the National Museum of American History’s vaults is a battered Atari case containing what’s known as “the worst video game of all time.” The game is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and it was so bad that not even the might of Steven Spielberg could save it. It was so loathsome that all remaining copies were buried deep in the desert. And it was so horrible that it’s blamed for the collapse of the American home video game industry in the early 1980s. This time on Sidedoor, we tell the sto...more

  • The Dinosaur War

    Jun 12 2019

    Behind the fossilized teeth, bones, and claws displayed in the National Museum of Natural History’s new Fossil Hall is the story of two men and a nasty feud. During the paleontology boom of the late 1800s, scientists O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope went from good friends who named species after each other, to the bitterest of enemies who eventually ruined each other's lives and careers. Come for the dinos, stay for the grudges.

  • Update: Meet the New Voice of Season Four!

    Jun 05 2019

    With our fourth season’s launch quickly approaching, take a moment to meet the new voice of Sidedoor! Season Four of the Smithsonian's Sidedoor podcast launches on June 12, 2019. Subscribe now!

  • Aloha, Y’all

    Apr 24 2019

    Close your eyes and think of Hawaii. That sound you undoubtedly hear? Well, that’s the ocean. But that other sound floating on the breeze—that’s the steel guitar, an indigenous Hawaiian invention that has influenced country, blues, and rock music since the turn of the 20th century. This time on Sidedoor, we follow a familiar sound with an unexpected origin and learn how the steel guitar helped Hawaiians preserve their culture and change American popular music.

  • Good as Gold

    Apr 10 2019

    Glittering treasures, gleaming coins, and eye-catching jewelry…gold can be all of these things, but in some parts of the world it's also an enduring link to the past. Gus Casely-Hayford, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, takes us on a journey through West Africa to learn how gold was the foundation for massive empires—and his own family—and how it continues shining brightly in West African culture today.

  • Abraham Lincoln: Prankster-in-Chief

    Apr 01 2019

    We all know Abraham Lincoln, right? Well, we know one side of him—the grave-faced leader of a troubled country—but behind the face on the penny lies an unlikely jokester. This week, Sidedoor reveals the rascally side of our 16th president, and does it with a brand-new sound.

  • The Feather Detective

    Mar 27 2019

    In 1960, investigators found dark bits of feather stuck inside a crashed airplane's engines. They needed someone to figure out what bird they belonged to—and how that bird took down a 110,000-pound plane. Enter Roxie Laybourne, a Smithsonian bird expert who not only answered that question, but also invented the science of using feathers to solve bird-related mysteries. This time on Sidedoor, we revisit some of Roxie's greatest cases and learn how she and her team helped keep the friendly skies f...more

  • Singing the Gender-Bending Blues

    Mar 13 2019

    Gladys Bentley loved women, wore men's clothing, and sang bawdy songs that would make sailors blush...and did it openly in the 1920s and 1930s. This was long before the gay rights or the civil rights movements, yet Bentley became a darling of the Harlem Renaissance alongside icons like Langston Hughes and Josephine Baker. While her provocative performances kept her from becoming as well-known as her peers, they are exactly why she is being rediscovered—and admired—today. In celebration of Women'...more

  • The Silence of the Frogs

    Feb 27 2019

    In the mid-1990s, investigators identified a mysterious and seemingly unstoppable killer. Its name? Chytrid. Its prey? Frogs. Since then, the disease has ravaged frog populations worldwide, and despite decades of research there’s still no cure. So, like modern-day Noahs, a group of Smithsonian researchers have resorted to a time-honored plan: building an ark…for amphibians. This time on Sidedoor, we travel to the Panamanian jungle to see how it's helping some endangered frogs avoid extinction.

  • Cheech Marin Gets Artsy

    Feb 13 2019

    In the 1970s and ’80s, Cheech Marin was famous for being half of the stoner comedy duo "Cheech and Chong." Today, he’s a passionate advocate for Chicano art and is raising awareness around a uniquely Mexican American aesthetic: rasquachismo. In this episode of Sidedoor, Cheech Marin is our guide to the wildly creative and ingenious world of rasquachismo—the Chicano art of working with what you've got.

  • 50 Shades of Gray Whales

    Jan 30 2019

    Happy New Year! We’re busy working on a new batch of Sidedoor episodes and while you wait, we wanted to re-share a story we like from the fall, just in case you missed it the first time around. From 6,000-year-old cave paintings to silver screen stars in movies like Free Willy, whales have long captured the human imagination. And it makes sense—they're among the largest and most intelligent creatures to ever live on our planet. This time on Sidedoor, we’ll explore our surprising relationship wit...more

  • Amelia Earhart's Revolutionary Flight Club

    Dec 26 2018

    You know Amelia Earhart, but did you know she was just one of a daring group of women aviators who defied both expectations and gravity in the 1920s? They called themselves the Ninety-Nines, and they’re still flying today as an organization dedicated to the advancement of women pilots. This time on Sidedoor, we time-travel to the Roaring ‘20s to experience America's first official all-female air race, and then meet a modern-day Ninety-Nine who is ensuring that the legacy of Earhart and her fello...more

  • Inventor, Photographer...Murderer

    Dec 12 2018

    Meet Eadweard Muybridge, a pioneering and eccentric photographer from the 1800s whose work changed how people understood movement, and paved the way for the invention of motion pictures. But this inventor, artist, and showman also made a name for himself for something much less savory: murder. This time on Sidedoor, come for the ingenuity and stay for the scandal as we find out how a near-death experience, a handsome horse, and a rumored $25,000 bet helped Eadweard Muybridge change the course of...more

  • This Color Is Who I Am

    Nov 28 2018

    Artist Frank Holliday's social circle in the 1980s was a who's who of New York City cool: Andy Warhol, Cyndi Lauper, RuPaul, Keith Haring, and even Madonna. But Frank's odyssey through the art world also placed him at the center of an epidemic that would shake the entire country. In honor of World AIDS Day, Sidedoor takes a look at America's early HIV/AIDS Crisis through the eyes of an artist whose life and work were changed by it forever.  This episode features recordings from the "Visual Ar...more

  • That Brunch in the Forest

    Nov 14 2018

    In 1621, a group of Pilgrims and Native Americans came together for a meal that many Americans call "The First Thanksgiving." But get this—it wasn't the first, and the meal itself wasn't so special either. The event was actually all but forgotten for hundreds of years…until it was dusted off to bolster the significance of a national holiday. This time on Sidedoor, we talk to Paul Chaat Smith, a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, to explore how much of what you t...more

  • Seriously Seeking Sasquatch

    Oct 31 2018

    Inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural history is the skeleton of Grover Krantz—an accomplished anthropologist, tenured professor…and diehard Bigfoot believer? As the first serious scientist to study the legendary creature, Krantz risked his career and reputation on a subject that many consider a joke. And while the museum remembers him as a man who loved science so much that he donated his body to it, another community remembers Krantz as a pioneer in the study of Sasquatch.

  • Slavery, Freedom & Grandma’s House

    Oct 17 2018

    What if you found out that your grandmother’s house was going on display at a museum? The. Whole. House. That’s what happened to the Meggett sisters, who grew up visiting, eating, and playing at their grandma’s tiny cabin in South Carolina, unaware that it was originally built to house enslaved people. This time on Sidedoor, we explore the house's unique journey from slave cabin to family home to its latest incarnation as a centerpiece at the National Museum of African American History and Cultu...more

  • 50 Shades of Gray Whales

    Oct 03 2018

    From 6,000-year-old cave paintings to silver screen stars in movies like Free Willy, whales have long captured the human imagination. And it makes sense—they're among the largest and most intelligent creatures to ever live on our planet. This time on Sidedoor, we’ll explore our surprising relationship with whales through the lens of one species: the gray whale. Once aggressively hunted and thought to be nearly extinct, they've rebounded to become one of the North Pacific’s most abundant whale sp...more

  • Update: Passing the Mic!

    Oct 01 2018

    Our dear host Tony Cohn is leaving *Sidedoor *to travel the world, so we want to take a minute to introduce you to the new voice of the show, Haleema Shah.

  • A Right to the City

    Sep 19 2018

    In Washington, D.C., the neighborhood of Anacostia was once dismissed as the wrong side of the river. Now, it is turning into a housing hotspot as the city sees an influx of newer, wealthier residents. It’s called gentrification, and the process has become a flashpoint from Houston to Harlem and beyond. We’ll explore this longtime fight for housing through an innovative community museum that empowers local residents—kids and adults—to tell the stories of these changing neighborhoods.

  • The World's Deadliest Animal

    Sep 05 2018

    The world’s deadliest animal isn’t the tiger, the snake, or even the alligator—it’s the mosquito. These tiny insects spread diseases that kill over 700,000 people each year. But what can we do to stop them? In search of solutions, host Tony Cohn travels around Panama with some well-equipped Smithsonian experts on the trail of this bloodthirsty, buzzing beast.

  • The Mystery Bones of Witch Hill

    Aug 22 2018

    It begins a bit like a *Scooby Doo *episode: archaeologists digging at a place called “Witch Hill” discover mysterious human remains in an ancient trash heap. Who was this person? How’d they get there? Astonishingly, it would take 40 years to find out, and the story is way more surprising — and groundbreaking — than anyone could’ve ever imagined. So, grab your Scooby Snacks and join Sidedoor as we journey to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama to see these unusual bones firstha...more

  • The Curse of the Hope Diamond

    Aug 08 2018

    The Hope Diamond is one of the most iconic items in the Smithsonian's collections, but this glittering gem is rumored to have a dark side. French monarchs, an heiress, and at least one unlucky postman have met misfortune after possessing it—though does that really constitute a curse? This time on Sidedoor, we track the lore of this notorious gem through the centuries, from southern India, through the French Revolution, and across the Atlantic Ocean to its current home at the National Museum of N...more

  • Season Three Update!

    Aug 02 2018

    Tony sneaks away from the mosquitoes and frogs of Panama to make a special announcement: Sidedoor season three launches on Wednesday, August 8! Get ready for even more amazing stories from every corner of the Smithsonian. Pro tip: subscribe today to receive new episodes before anyone else, including our upcoming season premiere, "The Curse of the Hope Diamond."  

  • Red, White and Brew

    Jul 04 2018

    How much do you know about the history of American home brewing? In this episode of Sidedoor you'll meet the Smithsonian's first brewing historian, Theresa McCulla, and learn about the role of women, enslaved people, and immigrants in the country's complex—and often surprising—relationship with beer. You'll also meet a new wave of brewers who are working to craft some flavorful history of their own. (Originally broadcast date: July 4th, 2017)

  • Discovering the World’s Oldest Winery

    Jun 27 2018

    Sidedoor host Tony Cohn gets the opportunity of a lifetime: fly to Armenia and crawl into a deep, dark cave in search of long-lost wine. But we’re not talking just any ol’ cabernet or sauvignon blanc: these 6,000-year-old wine remnants are evidence of the world's oldest winery. In this episode we ask, what can this ancient winery tell us about the earliest days of civilization, and could a thirst for wine be the reason why some ancient humans left behind their nomadic ways and settled down? (Ori...more

  • Best of the Rest

    Jun 06 2018

    Big Bird in space. Saving a multi-million-dollar painting. Smokey the *real* Bear. These are some of the stories we've been itching toshare, but didn’t have room for… until now. To close out Season 2, we’re serving up a few of our favorite Smithsonian “shorties,”plus we’ll check in with our most talked about characters from this past year. We’ll be back forSeason 3in August 2018! 

  • Don't Call Me Extinct

    May 23 2018

    Extinct species don’t usually get a do-over…but don’t tell that to the scimitar-horned oryx. Erased from the wild for three decades, these desert antelope are back in the Central African country of Chad with a thriving herd of over a hundred individuals. But how did this happen? We visit the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and a remote animal reserve in the United Arab Emirates to reveal the twists and turns of this amazing comeback story.

  • Cherokee Story Slam

    May 09 2018

    Talking animals? A bag of fire ants? Secret dancing superpowers? In this episode, Robert Lewis, an acclaimed Cherokee storyteller, spins stories about a legendary troublemaker: Jistu the Rabbit. Along the way, we visit the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, exploring the power stories hold to keep people connected to their culture across time and geographic distance. Experience the transformative power of a good tale.

  • Painting Michelle Obama

    Apr 25 2018

    The day that Amy Sherald heard that she had been chosen to paint the official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama, she called her mom to tell her the news, and then she told her dog. But soon after, the nerves set in. How was she going to create a portrait of one of the most iconic women in the world? In this episode of Sidedoor, we journey to Amy's studio to hear exactly how she captured the spirit of Michelle Obama in paint on canvas, and what she thinks of the reactions to her work.

  • Murder Is Her Hobby

    Apr 11 2018

    Over the past few weeks, we’ve been hard at work on a batch of stories you’re going to love. So this week, we're sharing one of our favorite eps from the fall. Heiress, divorcée … mother of forensic science? Frances Glessner Lee was not your average 19th century woman. Using the skills that high-society ladies were expected to have -- like sewing, crafting, and knitting -- Frances revolutionized the male-dominated world of crime scene investigation. Her most celebrated contribution: 19 intricate...more

  • A Crane with a Crush

    Mar 28 2018

    Chris Crowe, an animal keeper for the Smithsonian, has an unlikely bond with Walnut, a female white-naped crane. Despite their obvious differences, she chose him as her mate. For Crowe, their relationship has high stakes: it impacts the future of an entire species. Venture with Sidedoor to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to meet this unconventional couple, and find out how their connection could be key to white-naped crane survival.

  • Discovering the World’s Oldest Winery

    Mar 14 2018

    Sidedoor host Tony Cohn gets the opportunity of a lifetime: fly to Armenia and crawl into a deep, dark cave in search of lost wine. But we’re not talking just any ol’ cabernet or sauvignon blanc, these 6000-year-old remains are evidence of the world's oldest winery. In this episode, we ask: What can this ancient winery tell us about the earliest days of civilization, and could a thirst for wine be the reason why some ancient humans decided to settle down and stop being nomadic?

  • America's First Food Spy

    Feb 28 2018

    In the 1800s, the American diet was mostly made up of meats, potatoes, cheese, and perhaps the occasional green bean. Fruits and other veggies? Not so much. But that all changed thanks to a group of 19th century food spies – globe-trotting scientists and explorers who sought exotic crops to enhance America’s diet and help grow the economy. A pioneer among them was David Fairchild, who nabbed avocados from Chile, kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and much more. In this episode, we learn abou...more

  • Killer Viruses and One Man's Mission to Stop Them

    Feb 14 2018

    In 1918, a flu pandemic killed more than 50 million people worldwide. Forty years later, it nearly happened again. This week on Sidedoor, we go back to a time when the viruses were winning, and we remember one man, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, whose vaccine virtuosity helped turn the tide in the war against infectious diseases. Special thanks to our sponsor, Empty Frames. Search and subscribe to Empty Frames today on Apple Podcasts or your favorite listening destination.

  • Enslaved and Muslim in Early America

    Jan 31 2018

    Today, the US population is about 1% Muslim, but in the late 1700s that number was likely closer to 5%. Who were these early Muslim-Americans, where did they go, and why didn’t we all learn about them in school? In this episode, we search for American history's missing Muslims, and explore their experience though the words of Omar ibn Said, an enslaved Muslim man in North Carolina whose one-of-a-kind autobiography still resonates today.

  • Sidedoor Presents: AirSpace

    Jan 17 2018

    Join Sidedoor in welcoming AirSpace, a new gravity-defying podcast from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Hosts Emily Martin and Matt Schindell join Tony to share a few upcoming stories, including what’s on the menu in space, how Earth’s oceans teach us about exploring the cosmos, and what it takes to be an astronaut. We’ll also give you a peek into AirSpace’s maiden voyage, where the team looks at what happens when a bunch of scientists attempt to live like Martians. If you’ve ev...more

  • If These Bones Could Talk

    Jan 03 2018

    While we’re hard at work on some exciting new things, we wanted to start the new year off with one of our favorites from 2017: If These Bones Could Talk. Explorer, scholar and 19th Century Smithsonian darling Robert Kennicott seemed destined to lead a full and adventurous life. Then, at the age of 30, on an expedition to Russian Alaska in 1866, Kennicott was mysteriously discovered dead by a riverside. Rumors of all colors circulated about the cause of his death, although, it wasn’t until 135 ...more

  • The Many Lives of Owney the Dog

    Dec 20 2017

    120 years ago, Owney was a global celebrity. He was also a dog. And no, he didn’t juggle plates or dance on two legs, Owney was famous for simply riding trains with the US mail. So, climb aboard the Sidedoor Express and join us as we revisit different chapters of Owney’s story – his rise to fame, his disastrous fall, and his remarkable return to the spotlight at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. It’ll be a doggone good time.

  • This One's for Dilla

    Dec 06 2017

    Even if you’ve never heard his name, you’ve probably heard his sound. J Dilla was a prolific hip-hop artist who collaborated with many hip-hop greats – from Questlove to Erykah Badu to Eminem. In this episode, we’re telling the story of J Dilla’s life and legacy through those that knew him best – his mother (aka Ma Dukes), James Poyser, and Frank Nitt – and some surprising objects on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

  • LIVE! Cookin' Up Stories

    Nov 22 2017

    Does your ham sandwich have something to say? Quite possibly. Food can be a powerful storytelling tool. Many chefs, like authors, carefully craft meals or menus to transform a dining experience into a cultural, historical, or educational adventure. This week on Sidedoor, chef Jerome Grant from the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Maricel Presilla, who was the first female Latin American guest chef at the White House, discuss the story-rich menus that put...more

  • The Hungry Hungry Hippo Baby

    Nov 08 2017

    A hippo, an orangutan, and a scientist walk into a milk bar... or so our story goes. In January 2017, a baby hippo was born at the Cincinnati Zoo six weeks premature and some 30 pounds underweight. Her name was Fiona, and getting her to put on pounds was a life or death matter. Unfortunately, nursing wasn't an option and the only hippo formula recipe on file was old and out of date. To devise a new one, team Fiona turned to the scientists at the world's largest exotic milk repository at the Smit...more

  • Murder Is Her Hobby

    Oct 25 2017

    Heiress, divorcée … mother of forensic science? Frances Glessner Lee was not your average 19th century woman. Using the skills that high-society ladies were expected to have -- like sewing, crafting, and knitting -- Frances revolutionized the male-dominated world of crime scene investigation. Her most celebrated contribution: 19 intricate dioramas depicting violent murder scenes. In this episode of Sidedoor, we'll explore Frances's morbid obsession, and discover why the Smithsonian's Renwick Gal...more

  • Confronting the Past

    Oct 11 2017

    In 1921, a riot destroyed almost 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows exactly how many people died, no one was ever convicted, and no one really talked about it until nearly a century later. In this episode, Sidedoor explores the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why it's important that you know it. Episode originally released Nov. 9, 2016.

  • Grandma Turned Me into a Ghost

    Sep 27 2017

    Haunted by her not-so-nice grandmother, a young woman finds herself turning into a ghost. Writer Anelise Chen reads her essay “Who Haunts,” and discusses the ways in which our families shape our personal and cultural identities, for better or worse. Chen was recently featured at the Smithsonian's first-ever Asian American Literature Festival in Washington, D.C. Original score by Nico Porcaro.

  • The Man Who Defied Gravity

    Sep 13 2017

    In the late 1800s, Paul Cinquevalli was one of the most famous and thrilling entertainers in the world. Tales of his juggling and balancing exploits spanned continents. But by the mid 20th century, his name was all but forgotten. In this episode, Sidedoor explores Cinquevalli’s epic rise and fall, and brings you inside the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s circus tents for a one-of-a-kind Cinquevalli-inspired juggling revival.

  • Artist in Dissidence

    Aug 30 2017

    An artist steps in front of a camera and drops a priceless 2000-year-old vase onto the floor, smashing it into a million pieces. This is Ai Weiwei, and the resulting photographs are one of his most well-known works of art. Many were inspired; others were enraged. And around the world it got people talking. In this episode, we explore Ai Weiwei’s controversial career, and how he uses art to rally against political and social injustice.

  • LIVE! Unintended Consequences

    Aug 16 2017

    Catty gossip that led to a presidential scandal, the earliest mavericks of American cinema, and the risque Roman origins of a favorite Disney character. This week, we bring you tales of small things that snowballed and had outsized impacts on history, art and culture. Presented live at the 2017 NYC Podfest.

  • The Mean, Green, Water-Cleaning Machine

    Aug 02 2017

    In the early 1980s, a scientist invented a machine that could naturally filter out pollution from rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. So, why isn't it everywhere today? In this episode, we explore the secret behind this powerful green technology (spoiler alert: it's algae!) and track its journey from a coral reef in the Caribbean to the basement of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and finally a port in Baltimore, where it is now being used to clean up one of the ...more

  • The Art of War

    Jul 19 2017

    In this episode, we look at artists whose work has helped reveal the human side of war. You’ll hear about a famous artist who got his start sketching Civil War soldiers and landscapes, and how he was never the same again. Also featured are two contemporary artists: a painter whose work depicts war's psychological impact on his best friend, and a female combat photographer who repeatedly risked her own life to document her fellow soldiers’ experiences on the battlefield.

  • Bonus: Ale to the Chief

    Jul 12 2017

    In this mini-episode, Sidedoor host Tony Cohn interviews Sam Kass, former Obama White House chef and one of the people responsible for the first beer ever known to be brewed at the White House.

  • Red, White and Brew

    Jul 05 2017

    How much do you know about the history of American home-brewing? In this episode of Sidedoor you'll meet the Smithsonian's first brewing historian, Theresa McCulla, and learn about the role of women, enslaved people, and immigrants in the country's complex — and often surprising — relationship with beer. You'll also meet a new wave of brewers who are working to craft some flavorful history of their own.

  • If These Bones Could Talk

    Jun 21 2017

    Explorer, scholar and 19th Century Smithsonian darling Robert Kennicott seemed destined to lead a full and adventurous life. Then, at the age of 30, on an expedition to Russian Alaska in 1866, Kennicott was mysteriously discovered dead by a riverside. Rumors of all colors circulated about the cause of his death, although, it wasn’t until 135 years later, in 2001, that two Smithsonian forensic scientists cracked the case.

  • Guess Who's Back

    Jun 07 2017

    Sidedoor is back-- tell a friend! New season begins on Wednesday, June 21st.

  • Leave a Message at the Beep

    Feb 01 2017

    Tony shares a special thanks and an exciting update for our upcoming season. Share your thoughts by emailing sidedoor@si.edu or leave a message at 202-633-4120.

  • Shake It Up

    Jan 18 2017

    Transforming things we take for granted: An astronomer who has turned the night sky into a symphony; an architecture firm that has radically rethought police stations; and an audiophile who built a successful record company on underappreciated sounds.

  • You Do You

    Jan 04 2017

    Identity in a complex world: A look at the many roles each person plays in daily life; a group of lesbian feminists create an entirely new culture, religion and society in the 1970s; and Iraqi archaeologists work to preserve their cultural heritage after years of war.

  • Gaming the System

    Dec 21 2016

    Bending the rules: People sending their children through the U.S. Postal Service; a Sikh man in the early 1900s tries to use the Supreme Court's racist rulings to his benefit; and the little-known story behind the iconic folk song "Rock Island Line."

  • Butting Heads

    Dec 07 2016

    Squabbles big and small: A dining room turns two besties into lifelong enemies; a researcher embraces the panda craze; and why some dinosaur skulls were built to take a beating.

  • Mid Season Update

    Nov 30 2016

    A quick update from Tony about the show.

  • Masters of Disguise

    Nov 23 2016

    Tales of deception and trickery: A sneaky orchid seeks sexually frustrated pollinator; a battle fought by decoys; and a gender-bending zombie invasion of the Chesapeake Bay.

  • Confronting the Past

    Nov 09 2016

    A 1921 riot destroyed almost 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows how many people died, no one was ever convicted and no one really talked about it until a decade ago. This is the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why it's important that you know it.

  • Tech Yourself

    Oct 26 2016

    Technology's grip on us: The 4-1-1 on what's behind your selfie; an artist's computer simulation shows humans aren't as unique as we think; and how the invention of standardized time made America tick.

  • Special Delivery

    Oct 26 2016

    The payoff is all in the delivery: Sending mail via cruise missile; preparing a strong-willed orangutan for primate parenthood; and failing to land a joke from the "gag file" of Phyllis Diller.

  • Season 1 Tease

    Oct 25 2016

    Sidedoor, a new podcast from the Smithsonian, is launching October 26th, 2016. Start subscribing now on iTunes!