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Looted: Lessons Learned

Zoe Kontes

Kenyon College

A public facing project such as a podcast is an opportunity for academics to share their work with a broad audience. Podcasting is an important component of the future of classics, but it comes with a different set of production issues than traditional academic work. This talk will offer some lessons from my own podcasting experience to help illuminate these issues and the potential pitfalls of such a project, and provide some advice for future classics podcasters. My podcast will serve as just one example of the exciting possibilities of podcasting for our field. 

In creating a podcast, in addition to drawing on research and teaching, it may be necessary to develop other skills that are not normally part of academic work, but are required when engaging a public beyond the university. A reliance on collaborators, in particular, is often essential to such a project. Advice on technical issues, such as which recording software to use, and how to build a website, as well as help with launching the podcast and promoting it to maximum effect, may be necessary. Another hurdle may be that although a podcast is a research-based endeavor, it is also creative. Because there are no set parameters such as exist with publishing an academic article, it can be hard to know when an episode is finished. In addition, professor podcasters will need the support of their universities both in a practical sense—a place to record, for instance—and in the larger picture of recognizing the value of their work on the project. As an academic doing public facing work, negative reactions from colleagues are a possibility; they may not look upon this work in the same way as they would an academic article, even if the work may reach thousands.

In reaching thousands, however, we as classicists can make the future brighter for the field in general, and make a specific difference in our particular place in it. In the case of Looted, my narrative podcast series on the illicit trade in antiquities, my goal is to use education to provide context for objects that have been removed from the ground without proper excavation, but also to help curtail the plundering of antiquities by bringing its impact to life. Each episode tells the story of a specific artifact or group of artifacts from the ancient Mediterranean world to explore a larger topic, such as the looting of archaeological sites; forgeries and the science behind determining the authenticity of classical artifacts; and repatriation of looted objects. The podcast is primarily script-based, but some episodes also include interviews with archaeologists to discuss their firsthand experience with looting in the field, as well as with museum curators to discuss the study and presentation of artifacts in their collections. In the continuing battle for the preservation of the world’s cultural treasures, public opinion matters. The stories on Looted have the potential to inform public opinion, and to help translate ethical thinking into legislation.

Session/Panel Title

Podcasting the Classics

Session/Paper Number

40.5

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