You may have seen our favourite museum YouTube accounts, now it’s time to explore our favourite UK museum podcasts. Whether it’s comical chats on the art of caterpillar taxidermy or serious discussions on the history of looted objects, there’s something here for everyone
On the Record by The National Archives
Doodles on a medieval manuscript, a police transcript of a torn-up love letter, and a pleading letter to the home office are just three of the fascinating documents discussed in The National Archives’ podcast, On the Record. In each episode, Matt Norman and co-host Katie Fox uncover the stories behind the documents and follow ‘the paper trail of a nation’ with the help of archivists and records specialists.
They have three mini-series on the themes of spies, protest and love, with records and stories relating to famous names, unsung heroes and everyday folk alike. Be sure to listen to the episode Spies: Archetype of a Spy, which tells the story of Noor Inayat Khan, a courageous Muslim woman who undertook a spy mission in Nazi-occupied France.
The Wonder House by Dr Sushma Jansari
In Britain, many of us learn only one side of our colonial history at school, and more often than not it is a glossed-over and sanitised version. Unfortunately, it’s a similar story within our museums. Did you know, for example, that Sir Hans Sloane, the naturalist and collector who helped build the foundation of The British Museum, funded his vast collection with the earnings from his wife’s slave plantations in Jamaica?
In her refreshing and eye-opening podcast, Dr Sushma Jansari, the British Museum’s Tabor Foundation Curator: South Asia, discusses current approaches to decolonising museums in the UK, along with an expert guest. The aim? To make museums a representative and empowering centre of knowledge for all.
The Great Women Artists Podcast with Katy Hessel
Did you know that The National Gallery holds just 24 works of art by women, out of their total collection of over 2,300 artworks? In the Great Women Artists Podcast, art historian Katy Hessel shines a light on women artists who have been overshadowed throughout history by their male counterparts, such as Lee Miller with Man Ray.
She also provides a platform for contemporary women artists, such as Deborah Roberts, who explores topical themes such as race and gender identity in her work. Created following the huge success of her Instagram account of the same name, her podcast is enlightening and entertaining and reminds us that more support is needed for women artists to both create and display their work.
The British Museum Podcast
The British Museum is world-renowned for its vast collection of artefacts from across the globe, showcasing over two million years of human history. As well as exploring their collections online and taking a virtual tour of The British Museum, you can also tune in to their podcast to hear about their current exhibitions and find out what’s going on behind the scenes.
Once a month, museum curators Dr Sushma Jansari and Hugo Chapman share their opinions alongside museum experts on an array of topics relating to the museum and its collections. Hearing from a volunteer of twenty years sharing their experience of museum life and listening to a scientist chat about Egyptian coffin residue or ‘black goo’ are two particular highlights.
Voices of the Royal Pavilion & Museums by Brighton Museums
There’s a job for everyone in a museum. If you are interested in working in one or want to know more about the mechanics of how they are run, this podcast from Brighton Museums is well worth a listen. Each episode provides a first-hand account of museum life from the staff and volunteers, or ‘walking encyclopedias’ as host Dr Sophie Frost describes them, who work within the service in Brighton.
Hearing how Kelly, Assistant Buyer, and Robert, Marketing Support Officer, put their heads together back in 2014 to create Brighton Museum’s first LGBTQ trail, thanks to a workforce development programme, shows how important a role each employee plays in maintaining an engaging and representative space within museums.
Glasgow Women’s Library Podcast
The Glasgow Women’s Library holds a plethora of fascinating, historical artefacts and documents relating to the lives and achievements of women throughout history. If you haven’t been lucky enough to visit, you can get a flavour of their work via their podcast, where they feature inspiring interviews with women writers, poets, academics and more.
Their recent episode with Funmilola Fagbamila, a playwright, activist and scholar as well as one of the original founding members of the Black Lives Matter movement, is a great place to start.
Royal Academy of Arts Podcasts
Do you sometimes find yourself lost in thought after a trip to a museum or gallery? If so, the RA’s insightful podcast might just be the ticket for you. They seem to cover nearly every topic that could possibly arise from a stimulating, creative discourse on the history, future and current climate of the arts. Their episodes include interviews with writers, artists, filmmakers, architects, academics and more, and grapple with hefty topics such as class and creativity, as well as more niche topics such as the use of satire in the arts.
Their recent Festival of Ideas series is especially worth a listen, and Michael Rosen on the systems squeezing creativity out of education and Paul Smith on finding inspiration in the everyday and the extraordinary are two episodes that may also tickle your fancy.
Museums n’That by Leeds Museums & Galleries
The lovely folks at Leeds Museums & Galleries have created a wonderfully warm and upbeat podcast here. In each episode, Digital Engagement Officer, Meg, and Audience Development Officer, Sara, ask their Leeds Museums & Galleries’s colleagues all the questions you never thought you’d need answers to like, “how do you taxidermy a caterpillar?” and “who would win in a fight, a museum or an archive?”
They uncover the stories behind Leeds’ collection of artefacts and documents, covering natural history, social history and art, as well as broaching broader discussions on the ways that museums and galleries can help with contemporary social issues.
Egham Oddities: The Egham Museum Podcast
Let’s not forget the small museums! They are a vital way of understanding a nation through a local lens, revealing the tales and travails of interesting, everyday citizens who may otherwise be lost to history. One brilliant example of this is Egham Museum, which is also known for its rather unusual collection of artefacts.
Their informative podcast centres in on this unique collection, with host Steven Franklin presenting an ‘oddity’ to his selected panel of experts once a month, along with broader discussions on the nature of and challenges faced by small museums.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Tiffany Jenkins
Tiffany Jenkins isn’t afraid to ask the difficult questions when it comes to art and culture. In each episode of her podcast, she invites experts to discuss, and at times hotly debate, the current movements and controversies shaking the art world; be that a painting or a play. Big topics like the censorship and self-censorship of artists, the ownership of looted objects, and nudity in art in the age of #MeToo are dissected at length.
As geeky as this sounds, another appeal for us is the production quality. Many of the episodes are recorded directly in a museum and the creaking floorboards and echoing whispers in the background make us rather happy.