Monthly Archives: March 2013

Podcasts and Art Museums

I’ve been impressed by the creativity of the art museum world in their use of podcasts. I think that it stems from their familiarity with the recorded gallery tour, in which you picked up a cassette player at the entry desk and walked through an exhibition, listening to the curator. Take a look at SmartHistory (, an award-winning site that uses a format of two narrators discussing a particular work of art. For a good example, check out their podcast on Mary Cassatt’s “Breakfast in Bed.” It is very low tech and focuses completely on the painting itself. I have not found the same level of energy for the interpretation of history, although this is rapidly changing.

City of Gold

In this 1957 classic film, Pierre Berton talks about his hometown of Dawson City. A recollection of the Klondike gold rush at its height, City of Gold used still photographs to compare Dawson City of the gold rush era with the town in the 1950s. It is, in essence, the “Ken Burns” technique years before that filmmaker’s breakthrough documentary, Brooklyn Bridge.

The documentary began when Colin Low visited the Public Archives in Whitehorse, Canada, and found 200 photographs taken by A. E. Hegg during the Gold Rush in 1898-99. These 8 × 10 glass plate negatives had been found in wooden boxes in a sod-roofed log house, but were fortunately saved and restored. The plates provided incredibly sharp images; photographer Hegg brought an eye for faces and context to his work. This is a real gem, lasting around twenty-one minutes.