The power of audio – presenting archives via podcasts: submission accepted for Shaking the archive conference, Edinburgh, June 2023

Along with my colleagues Dr Bruce Ryan, Marianne Wilson, and Dr Iain McGregor, I am delighted that the submission that we made earlier this year to the Shaking the archive – reconsidering the role of archives in contemporary society conference has been accepted.

Taking place at Queen Margaret University Edinburgh between 23rd and 25th June 2023, delegates at this hybrid, multidisciplinary event will discuss the power of/within archives, while also exploring ways in which archives may be interrogated, re-imagined, and represented.

Our submission, entitled ‘The power of audio: presenting archives via podcasts’, is concerned with the findings of the Heritage organisations and podcasts scoping study (HOPSS). We completed this research in 2022 as a sister project to our AHRC-funded Platform to Platform work to draw on personal and media archives to create the Diary of the war podcast series (recently highly commended by the British Records Association). The abstract of our paper for Shaking the archive is given below.

The power of audio: presenting archives via podcasts – abstract

Heritage Organisations and Podcasts Scoping Study (HOPSS) was a small-scale project completed by a team at Edinburgh Napier University in 2022. Designed to scope the research landscape related to podcasting in cultural heritage work (including archives) from the perspective of those who create audio content based on collections, the research addressed three main aims:

  1. To identify the main sources and types of evidence available on the use of podcasts by cultural heritage organisations (e.g. Kell & Gagau, 2020).
  2. To highlight the limits of knowledge in this area.
  3. To pinpoint key research questions on the subject of cultural heritage and podcasts – an area that has been noted as ripe for academic research (Edwards & Hershkowitz, 2021; Rupinski & Rander, 2019).

These aims were met through literature review (Phase 1) followed by analysis of qualitative data collected in interviews with nine podcast content creators who work in cultural heritage organisations (Phase 2).

The main finding from Phase 1 is that although podcast production is undertaken by cultural heritage professionals to promote accessibility, representation and community building, published research on this practice is generally limited to single case studies. The analysis of data from Phase 2 interviews demonstrates that podcast production (1) brings opportunities for collaboration and community-building between cultural heritage practitioners; (2) facilitates engagement with collections, particularly intangible cultural heritage. These findings indicate that podcasts have the potential to be a useful tool to support archive professionals to build, curate, interpret and disseminate collections.

On the basis of this work, future research should focus on three main themes: (1) the use of podcasts to enhance representation in, and reuse of, collections; (2) engagement with archives represented in podcasts; (3) impact of podcasting on archives. This will address contemporary engagement with ‘old’ ephemera, and the visibility and accessibility of archives.


Edwards, E., & Hershkowitz, R. (2021). Books aren’t dead: Resurrecting audio technology and feminist digital humanities approaches to publication and authorship. Digital Humanities Quarterly, 15(1), 1–10. [Freely available from publisher.]

Kell, J. & Gagau, S. (2020). New collaborative research on ethnographic collections: bridging archives and communities through podcasting. University Museums and Collections Journal 12(1), 37-45. [Freely available from publisher.]

Rupinski, L. & Rander, J. (2019). Telling stories: a case study in podcasting with archival resources. Archival Issues 40(1), 24-38. [Freely available from publisher.]

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