"Archive Unknown" cover art.
Ypsilanti resident and University of Michigan (U-M) Bentley Historical Library Editorial Director Lara Zielin has launched a new podcast exploring what she calls "unbelievable true stories that are stored in archives across the country."
Zielin's podcast is entitled "Archive Unknown." One recent episode, called "Digging Up a Religious Racket," focuses on a series of what were alleged to be religious relics dug up in Michigan in the late 1800s. The "relics" are widely understood to be hoaxes.
"We’re talking cups, amulets, tools, pipes — even tablets," Zielin says in the episode.
Another episode, "A Very Cold Case," describes the 1945 murder of Sen. Warren Hooper. Though boxes of witness statements, photographs, and case notes are currently housed at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library, the case remains unsolved.
Most of Zielin’s episodes are between 10 and 15 minutes long.
"I just kind of wanted this to be more of a snack versus Thanksgiving dinner," she says.
In her 10 years at Bentley, Zielin has worked on the library's communications, social media, and magazine — but what she hasn’t done before is make a podcast. To make her own show, Zielin had to learn not only how to tell an engaging audio story, but also how to edit audio.
While several shows have focused on stories related to Michigan, Zielin intends to cast a wide net. Zielin says that her biggest challenge making the podcast — but also what makes it unique — is finding a primary source to inspire each episode. These sources can be anything from a letter or scrapbook to a photograph but, in most cases, the source must be available digitally in order for Zielin to access it.
That’s what makes her show "a little different," Zielin says. Other podcasts describe unusual stories, but, she says, "few of them are going into the archives and telling stories about real primary sources."
Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.
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