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Smithsonian Institution

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More than 154 million treasures fill the Smithsonian’s vaults, but where public view ends, Sidedoor begins. With the help of biologists, artists, historians, archaeologists, zookeepers and astrophysicists, host Tony Cohn sneaks listeners through Smit...Show More

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Painting Michelle Obama

24:59 | Apr 25th, 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 ...Show More

Killer Viruses and One Man's Mission to Stop Them

21:32 | Feb 14th, 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...Show More

Enslaved and Muslim in Early America

29:47 | Jan 31st, 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 America...Show More

Murder Is Her Hobby

25:04 | Oct 25th, 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-do...Show More

If These Bones Could Talk

26:55 | Jan 3rd, 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 lea...Show More

Confronting the Past

24:52 | Oct 11th, 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...Show More

Bonus: Ale to the Chief

12:48 | Jul 12th, 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.

Special Delivery

22:09 | Oct 26th, 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.

Good as Gold

21:08 | Apr 10th

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, t...Show More

Abraham Lincoln: Prankster-in-Chief

32:42 | Apr 1st

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 i...Show More

The Feather Detective

27:10 | Mar 27th

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 exp...Show More

Singing the Gender-Bending Blues

26:58 | Mar 13th

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 Har...Show More

The Silence of the Frogs

26:06 | Feb 27th

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, l...Show More

Cheech Marin Gets Artsy

26:24 | Feb 13th

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 ...Show More

50 Shades of Gray Whales

25:27 | Jan 30th

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 star...Show More

Amelia Earhart's Revolutionary Flight Club

26:38 | Dec 26th, 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...Show More

Inventor, Photographer...Murderer

27:31 | Dec 12th, 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 him...Show More

This Color Is Who I Am

27:30 | Nov 28th, 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 w...Show More

That Brunch in the Forest

25:19 | Nov 14th, 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...Show More

Seriously Seeking Sasquatch

26:09 | Oct 31st, 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...Show More

Slavery, Freedom & Grandma’s House

21:48 | Oct 17th, 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 t...Show More

50 Shades of Gray Whales

24:54 | Oct 3rd, 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...Show More

Update: Passing the Mic!

02:12 | Oct 1st, 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

24:45 | Sep 19th, 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 ...Show More

The World's Deadliest Animal

25:11 | Sep 5th, 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 trav...Show More

The Mystery Bones of Witch Hill

22:13 | Aug 22nd, 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 ou...Show More

The Curse of the Hope Diamond

27:18 | Aug 8th, 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 do...Show More

Season Three Update!

01:18 | Aug 2nd, 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 ...Show More

Red, White and Brew

25:31 | Jul 4th, 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 c...Show More

Discovering the World’s Oldest Winery

26:06 | Jun 27th, 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 o...Show More

Best of the Rest

30:38 | Jun 6th, 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 Smithsonia...Show More

Don't Call Me Extinct

25:55 | May 23rd, 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 individu...Show More

Cherokee Story Slam

23:59 | May 9th, 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 Muse...Show More

Murder Is Her Hobby

25:37 | Apr 11th, 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 ...Show More

A Crane with a Crush

21:59 | Mar 28th, 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 ...Show More

Discovering the World’s Oldest Winery

25:28 | Mar 14th, 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'...Show More

America's First Food Spy

26:16 | Feb 28th, 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...Show More

Sidedoor Presents: AirSpace

17:58 | Jan 17th, 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...Show More

The Many Lives of Owney the Dog

24:27 | Dec 20th, 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 differen...Show More

This One's for Dilla

27:59 | Dec 6th, 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 lif...Show More

LIVE! Cookin' Up Stories

27:16 | Nov 22nd, 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. T...Show More

The Hungry Hungry Hippo Baby

21:01 | Nov 8th, 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...Show More

Grandma Turned Me into a Ghost

21:12 | Sep 27th, 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. ...Show More

The Man Who Defied Gravity

24:35 | Sep 13th, 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, Sid...Show More

Artist in Dissidence

17:35 | Aug 30th, 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 ...Show More

LIVE! Unintended Consequences

29:18 | Aug 16th, 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...Show More

The Mean, Green, Water-Cleaning Machine

23:11 | Aug 2nd, 2017

The Algal Turf Scrubber (ATS) is one of the marine ecology field’s best-kept secrets. Invented by Smithsonian scientist Dr. Walter Adey in the 1980s, the ATS harvests algae from large bodies of water and converts it to biomass that can be used to fue...Show More

The Art of War

23:11 | Jul 19th, 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 contem...Show More

Red, White and Brew

25:09 | Jul 5th, 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 c...Show More

If These Bones Could Talk

26:28 | Jun 21st, 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...Show More

Guess Who's Back

01:44 | Jun 7th, 2017

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

Leave a Message at the Beep

02:12 | Feb 1st, 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

23:54 | Jan 18th, 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...Show More

You Do You

19:31 | Jan 4th, 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 a...Show More

Gaming the System

21:41 | Dec 21st, 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

18:31 | Dec 7th, 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

00:37 | Nov 30th, 2016

A quick update from Tony about the show.

Masters of Disguise

18:01 | Nov 23rd, 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

22:25 | Nov 9th, 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 Ma...Show More

Tech Yourself

20:56 | Oct 26th, 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.

Season 1 Tease

00:45 | Oct 25th, 2016

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