The Ypsilanti District Library (YDL) has launched a new podcast called "Ypsi Stories," which aims to spotlight lesser-known stories of Ypsilanti's past and provide a community resource.
The first episode, "Lucius Lyon and the Land Speculators," was released Nov. 4. New episodes will be released on the first Wednesday of each month, with supplemental material like photographs and maps provided with each podcast.
YDL librarian Shoshanna Wechter is serving as host, producer, and engineer for the project. She says the podcast is a natural extension of the local history programming the YDL has done for years. Wechter says she has organized a number of local history lectures and presentations by Ypsi historians, but those kinds of events aren't possible while the library branches are closed to in-person events.
She adds that she always felt sad that if patrons were unable to attend a lecture in person, they would just miss it, because the events weren't recorded. With the podcast, library staff can create an archive of material that can be visited at any time, and added to as relevant items are discovered.
"It can be fun and informative to tell in story form parts of our history that maybe they haven't known before," Wechter says. "Some of the histories people will be sharing on our podcast are histories you don't see written down in any books so far."
She adds that she also hopes the archive of podcasts can serve as a resource to students and teachers when students are learning about local history, in combination with the resources already available on the library's website, including the A.P. Marshall African American Oral History Archive.
"If 'Ypsi Stories' can be something that can add to what the library is already doing in terms of hosting historical information you don't find anywhere else, that'd be incredible," she says.
YDL chose Jerome Drummond, a YDL circulation clerk who is also a historian working on a book about Ypsilanti history, to guest on the first podcast about land speculation in the region that would become Ypsilanti. Wechter says that although land speculation might seem like a "dry" topic, it's closely related to the reality behind the American dream.
"We think of the United States as being founded on grand ideas, and a place like Ypsilanti was founded by people looking for a better life, but it was also settled by land speculators who were simply trying to make money. It's interesting to see that other side of history," she says.
Future episodes will feature other local historians, and Wechter hopes that some of the episodes can be built around themes like Pride Month or Women's History Month. She says she has podcast guests lined up through March and a tentative schedule of topics planned out through September 2021. Wechter says she's aiming for variety. While the first episode has an interview format, some episodes may be essays or audio presentations with multiple guests.
The second episode, released today, is entitled "Urban Renewal on Ypsilanti's Southside," presented by historian Lee Azus. Wechter says she was eager to have Azus participate in the podcast because he gave an in-person talk on a similar theme for YDL before the pandemic, which was one of the best-attended talks Wechter can remember.
Patrons may listen to the podcast on YDL's website, Google or Apple podcast apps, Spotify, or most other platforms that host podcasts. More information about "Ypsi Stories" can be found here.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor District Library.