A Brief Affair with Podcasts

I am the kind of person who sings the wrong lyrics to songs on the radio, always uses subtitles on Netflix, and frequently must ask people to repeat themselves.  I do not absorb audio information particularly well and would rather have written instructions over verbal instructions any day of the week.  For these reasons I have avoided podcasts like the plague.  I am not an auditory learner, so I always figured that I would not like this type of media.  For the most part, I was right.  But I found that I can enjoy podcasts when the right tools are provided.

I will return to my struggles with the podcast format momentarily, but first I want to praise the content of the podcast I listened to.  As I had never listened to a podcast before and really had no idea what I was looking for, I turned to every student’s best friend: Google.  With a simple search combining one of my research interests (historic houses) and the phrase “podcasts”, I cast my net into the interwebs in hopes of catching an interesting fish.  My catch was PreserveCast, a preservation themed podcast produced by Preservation Maryland.  Preservation Maryland is not limited to historic houses, but also preserves archaeological sites, landscapes, and non-residential structures.  Although the foundation focuses on Maryland sites, the podcast covers preservation topics from all over the country and occasionally from abroad.  To my delight, PreserveCast had done an episode with one of my favorite practicing preservationists, Frank Vagnone.

Cover page for Frank Vagnone’s episode of PreserveCast

Frank Vagnone is a self-described “domestic-archeo-anthropologist”, owner of Twisted Preservation, the CEO of Old Salem, author of the blog “One Night Stand”, and co-author of one of my all-time favorite books The Anarchist’s Guide to Historic Houses.  (Mr. Vagnone, if you somehow read this blog, please know that I am a huge fan of your work.)  Fittingly, Vagnone’s episode of PreserveCast was titled “The Anarchist’s Podcast on Historic House Museums”.  The segment was largely about The Anarchist’s Guide to Historic Houses, which Vagnone co-authored with Deborah E. Ryan and the episode aired about a year after the book’s 2016 publication.  Vagnone spoke about his path into preservation and the shortcomings of museum best practices for making historic house tours engaging and for incubating real experiences in these spaces.  The host of the show, Nick Redding, peppered Vagnone with questions about his career and the book.  Overall it seemed that the two had a good rapport and a fun conversation.

Audio widget and Transcript on PreserveCast

Now, dear reader, you may be wondering how I absorbed all this information when I so vehemently stated that I am not an auditory learner.  PreserveCast has a simple but very useful component to their podcast.  They provide a transcript of every episode on the page where the audio file plays!  I was able to read along as I listened to their conversation and while I retained most of the information through the reading, hearing their conversation while I did so actually helped me understand the tone of the conversation.  While I would not like a podcast that provided only audio, I dare to say that the audio paired with the text enriched my experience.

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