Archival Audio, Past and Present

Curated by the Bughouse Square team

Bughouse Square is a new show that pairs archival audio of the legendary journalist Studs Terkel with contemporary interviews run by powerhouse writer and scholar Eve Ewing. Here, they present a collection of podcasts that use old footage to tell, enhance, and frame their stories.

You might envision an archive as a series of dusty boxes stretching into oblivion, like the last scene in Indiana Jones. But if you know how to use them correctly, archives are wonderful resources. They are both windows to the past and mirrors for our present. And archived audio fits perfectly into the modern podcast landscape, a blend of old and new.

This show would not have been possible without Studs Terkel, the grandfather of man-on-the-street interviews and a godfather of modern journalism who called Chicago’s WFMT his radio home for 45 years. We have captured his voice thanks to the devoted work of the teams at the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, Library of Congress, and Chicago History Museum, who together cracked the seal on these interviews. These librarians and archivists brought us work that many never knew existed, and now we can bring it to you.

View, follow, and listen to the whole collection of shows on RadioPublic, available on iOS and Android.

Bughouse Square with Eve Ewing

Hey, it’s us! Where else can you hear Shel Silverstein and the author of Go the F*** to Sleep at the same time? Nowhere! And the pairing of Studs and Eve is a match made in literary and sociological heaven. The archival audio is compelling and groundbreaking and Eve, with the tone of a smarter, cooler older sister, kindly and excitedly points the audience towards the meatiest bits of the conversation.

More Perfect

If you thought the powerhouse Radiolab could get any more relatable to our world, welcome to the Supreme Court spinoff More Perfect. The first season uses a lot of great audio from OYEZ, the (totally free) multimedia judicial archive of the Supreme Court of the United States. It’s not enough to learn about the most important cases of our country, but to feel like you’re actually there is special. We can take the freedoms of our country for granted sometimes, but being transported in the court chambers reminds us how much struggle goes into those freedoms.

Poetry Off the Shelf

Have you been listening to the podcasts from the Poetry Foundation? Because this isn’t any old Poem-of-the-Day feed (which they have also, and it’s lovely). POTS explores the diverse world of contemporary American poetry with readings by poets, interviews with critics, and short poetry documentaries. And since they’re the Poetry Foundation, they have some amazing old poetry readings that you never expected someone got on tape–and we’re lucky they did.

The Kitchen Sisters Present

If you’re talking archival audio tape, you’re talking the Kitchen Sisters. Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva have been making award-winning stories about lives, histories, and art about cultural heritage for longer than there was an FM dial. And recently, they’ve started a new series all about archivists – The Keepers! Come for the old audio, stay for the rogue librarians!

Can We Talk?

Sometimes an archive is growing right before our eyes and, like a window into a greenhouse, a podcast gives us an opportunity to see how the collection is growing. Can We Talk? is a wonderful example of that, as the Jewish Women’s Archive features stories and conversations about Jewish women and the issues that shape our public and private lives.

Archive 81

The idea of mysterious, unearthed documents are so captivating – who knows WHAT is in there until someone opens it up. If you want a break from real archives, dive into this horror podcast, where unsuspecting workers are tasked with archiving a very, very strange collection of information.

Making Gay History

Archives can help reveal the truth about people traditionally excluded from historical narratives. Making Gay History fills in the past struggle for gay rights with interviews from activists in the 1960s, 70s, and beyond. Start with the first episode that features a never-before-heard conversation with trans icon and Stonewall Uprising veteran Sylvia Rivera.

The Archive from Paste Magazine

Sometimes, an archive is just a whole bunch of interviews that no one knows what to do with. When the editor-in-chief of cool music magazine Paste decided to start publishing their interviews with Tina Turner, Bono, Keith Richards and more, all we could say is “Thank you” – for bringing the legendary voices of their magazine pages to life.


Hey universities, open up your archives! Share the knowledge! We think it’s cool! Follow the lead of UConn, who cracked open the UConn Archives & Special Collections to discuss a wide range of historical research paired with rare audio recordings. Who wouldn’t want to hear from 20th century authors reading the beginnings of science fiction? We definitely do.

Flatbush + Main

A podcast grows in Brooklyn with Flatbush + Main. This hyper-local archival podcast use archives and oral history to dive deep into Brooklyn’s past, tying it to the issues facing New Yorkers and Americans today. And it’s hosted by Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia, two historians at Brooklyn Historical Society, so you know you’re in competent hands.


Want to create your own collection of shows that dovetails with your area of interest? Add shows to your Smart Folder on RadioPublic, then inform the Podcast Librarian of your collection:

Leave a Reply