Sidedoor is a podcast only the Smithsonian can bring you.

Space Jocks & Moon Rocks
Jul 10 • 26 min
When NASA’s Apollo 11 mission sent the first astronauts to the moon 50 years ago, there were many things we didn’t know. Like whether the moon’s surface would turn out to be a field of quicksand, if space germs would infect the astronauts, or what exactly…
The Worst Video Game Ever?
Jun 26 • 25 min
Deep within the National Museum of American History’s vaults is a battered Atari case containing what’s known as “the worst video game of all time.” The game is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and it was so bad that not even the might of Steven Spielberg…
The Dinosaur War
Jun 12 • 29 min
Behind the fossilized teeth, bones, and claws displayed in the National Museum of Natural History’s new Fossil Hall is the story of two men and a nasty feud. During the paleontology boom of the late 1800s, scientists O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope went from…
Update: Meet the New Voice of Season Four!
Jun 5 • 2 min
With our fourth season’s launch quickly approaching, take a moment to meet the new voice of Sidedoor! Season Four of the Smithsonian’s Sidedoor podcast launches on June 12, 2019. Subscribe now!
Aloha, Y’all
Apr 24 • 29 min
Close your eyes and think of Hawaii. That sound you undoubtedly hear? Well, that’s the ocean. But that other sound floating on the breeze—that’s the steel guitar, an indigenous Hawaiian invention that has influenced country, blues, and rock music since…
Good as Gold
Apr 10 • 21 min
Glittering treasures, gleaming coins, and eye-catching jewelry…gold can be all of these things, but in some parts of the world it’s also an enduring link to the past. Gus Casely-Hayford, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, takes…
Abraham Lincoln: Prankster-in-Chief
Apr 1 • 32 min
We all know Abraham Lincoln, right? Well, we know one side of him—the grave-faced leader of a troubled country—but behind the face on the penny lies an unlikely jokester. This week, Sidedoor reveals the rascally side of our 16th president, and does it…
The Feather Detective
Mar 27 • 27 min
In 1960, investigators found dark bits of feather stuck inside a crashed airplane’s engines. They needed someone to figure out what bird they belonged to—and how that bird took down a 110,000-pound plane. Enter Roxie Laybourne, a Smithsonian bird expert…
Singing the Gender-Bending Blues
Mar 13 • 26 min
Gladys Bentley loved women, wore men’s clothing, and sang bawdy songs that would make sailors blush…and did it openly in the 1920s and 1930s. This was long before the gay rights or the civil rights movements, yet Bentley became a darling of the Harlem…
The Silence of the Frogs
Feb 27 • 26 min
In the mid-1990s, investigators identified a mysterious and seemingly unstoppable killer. Its name? Chytrid. Its prey? Frogs. Since then, the disease has ravaged frog populations worldwide, and despite decades of research there’s still no cure. So, like…
Cheech Marin Gets Artsy
Feb 13 • 26 min
In the 1970s and ’80s, Cheech Marin was famous for being half of the stoner comedy duo “Cheech and Chong.” Today, he’s a passionate advocate for Chicano art and is raising awareness around a uniquely Mexican American aesthetic: rasquachismo. In this…
50 Shades of Gray Whales
Jan 30 • 25 min
Happy New Year! We’re busy working on a new batch of Sidedoor episodes and while you wait, we wanted to re-share a story we like from the fall, just in case you missed it the first time around. From 6,000-year-old cave paintings to silver screen stars in…
Amelia Earhart’s Revolutionary Flight Club
Dec 26, 2018 • 26 min
You know Amelia Earhart, but did you know she was just one of a daring group of women aviators who defied both expectations and gravity in the 1920s? They called themselves the Ninety-Nines, and they’re still flying today as an organization dedicated to…
Inventor, Photographer…Murderer
Dec 12, 2018 • 27 min
Meet Eadweard Muybridge, a pioneering and eccentric photographer from the 1800s whose work changed how people understood movement, and paved the way for the invention of motion pictures. But this inventor, artist, and showman also made a name for himself…
This Color Is Who I Am
Nov 28, 2018 • 27 min
Artist Frank Holliday’s social circle in the 1980s was a who’s who of New York City cool: Andy Warhol, Cyndi Lauper, RuPaul, Keith Haring, and even Madonna. But Frank’s odyssey through the art world also placed him at the center of an epidemic that would…
That Brunch in the Forest
Nov 14, 2018 • 25 min
In 1621, a group of Pilgrims and Native Americans came together for a meal that many Americans call “The First Thanksgiving.” But get this—it wasn’t the first, and the meal itself wasn’t so special either. The event was actually all but forgotten for…
Seriously Seeking Sasquatch
Oct 31, 2018 • 26 min
Inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural history is the skeleton of Grover Krantz—an accomplished anthropologist, tenured professor…and diehard Bigfoot believer? As the first serious scientist to study the legendary creature, Krantz risked his…
Slavery, Freedom & Grandma’s House
Oct 17, 2018 • 21 min
What if you found out that your grandmother’s house was going on display at a museum? The. Whole. House. That’s what happened to the Meggett sisters, who grew up visiting, eating, and playing at their grandma’s tiny cabin in South Carolina, unaware that…
50 Shades of Gray Whales
Oct 3, 2018 • 24 min
From 6,000-year-old cave paintings to silver screen stars in movies like Free Willy, whales have long captured the human imagination. And it makes sense—they’re among the largest and most intelligent creatures to ever live on our planet. This time on…
Update: Passing the Mic!
Oct 1, 2018 • 2 min
Our dear host Tony Cohn is leaving *Sidedoor *to travel the world, so we want to take a minute to introduce you to the new voice of the show, Haleema Shah.
A Right to the City
Sep 19, 2018 • 24 min
In Washington, D.C., the neighborhood of Anacostia was once dismissed as the wrong side of the river. Now, it is turning into a housing hotspot as the city sees an influx of newer, wealthier residents. It’s called gentrification, and the process has…
The World’s Deadliest Animal
Sep 5, 2018 • 25 min
The world’s deadliest animal isn’t the tiger, the snake, or even the alligator—it’s the mosquito. These tiny insects spread diseases that kill over 700,000 people each year. But what can we do to stop them? In search of solutions, host Tony Cohn travels…
The Mystery Bones of Witch Hill
Aug 22, 2018 • 22 min
It begins a bit like a *Scooby Doo *episode: archaeologists digging at a place called “Witch Hill” discover mysterious human remains in an ancient trash heap. Who was this person? How’d they get there? Astonishingly, it would take 40 years to find out,…
The Curse of the Hope Diamond
Aug 8, 2018 • 27 min
The Hope Diamond is one of the most iconic items in the Smithsonian’s collections, but this glittering gem is rumored to have a dark side. French monarchs, an heiress, and at least one unlucky postman have met misfortune after possessing it—though does…
Season Three Update!
Aug 2, 2018 • 1 min
Tony sneaks away from the mosquitoes and frogs of Panama to make a special announcement: Sidedoor season three launches on Wednesday, August 8! Get ready for even more amazing stories from every corner of the Smithsonian. Pro tip: subscribe today to…
Red, White and Brew
Jul 4, 2018 • 25 min
How much do you know about the history of American home brewing? In this episode of Sidedoor you’ll meet the Smithsonian’s first brewing historian, Theresa McCulla, and learn about the role of women, enslaved people, and immigrants in the country’s…
Discovering the World’s Oldest Winery
Jun 27, 2018 • 26 min
Sidedoor host Tony Cohn gets the opportunity of a lifetime: fly to Armenia and crawl into a deep, dark cave in search of long-lost wine. But we’re not talking just any ol’ cabernet or sauvignon blanc: these 6,000-year-old wine remnants are evidence of the…
Best of the Rest
Jun 6, 2018 • 30 min
Big Bird in space. Saving a multi-million-dollar painting. Smokey the *real* Bear. These are some of the stories we’ve been itching toshare, but didn’t have room for… until now. To close out Season 2, we’re serving up a few of our favorite Smithsonian…
Don’t Call Me Extinct
May 23, 2018 • 25 min
Extinct species don’t usually get a do-over…but don’t tell that to the scimitar-horned oryx. Erased from the wild for three decades, these desert antelope are back in the Central African country of Chad with a thriving herd of over a hundred individuals.…
Cherokee Story Slam
May 9, 2018 • 23 min
Talking animals? A bag of fire ants? Secret dancing superpowers? In this episode, Robert Lewis, an acclaimed Cherokee storyteller, spins stories about a legendary troublemaker: Jistu the Rabbit. Along the way, we visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of…
Painting Michelle Obama
Apr 25, 2018 • 24 min
The day that Amy Sherald heard that she had been chosen to paint the official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama, she called her mom to tell her the news, and then she told her dog. But soon after, the nerves set in. How was she going to create a…
Murder Is Her Hobby
Apr 11, 2018 • 25 min
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been hard at work on a batch of stories you’re going to love. So this week, we’re sharing one of our favorite eps from the fall. Heiress, divorcée … mother of forensic science? Frances Glessner Lee was not your average 19th…
A Crane with a Crush
Mar 28, 2018 • 21 min
Chris Crowe, an animal keeper for the Smithsonian, has an unlikely bond with Walnut, a female white-naped crane. Despite their obvious differences, she chose him as her mate. For Crowe, their relationship has high stakes: it impacts the future of an…
Discovering the World’s Oldest Winery
Mar 14, 2018 • 25 min
Sidedoor host Tony Cohn gets the opportunity of a lifetime: fly to Armenia and crawl into a deep, dark cave in search of lost wine. But we’re not talking just any ol’ cabernet or sauvignon blanc, these 6000-year-old remains are evidence of the world’s…
America’s First Food Spy
Feb 28, 2018 • 26 min
In the 1800s, the American diet was mostly made up of meats, potatoes, cheese, and perhaps the occasional green bean. Fruits and other veggies? Not so much. But that all changed thanks to a group of 19th century food spies – globe-trotting scientists and…
Killer Viruses and One Man’s Mission to Stop Them
Feb 14, 2018 • 21 min
In 1918, a flu pandemic killed more than 50 million people worldwide. Forty years later, it nearly happened again. This week on Sidedoor, we go back to a time when the viruses were winning, and we remember one man, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, whose vaccine…
Enslaved and Muslim in Early America
Jan 31, 2018 • 29 min
Today, the US population is about 1% Muslim, but in the late 1700s that number was likely closer to 5%. Who were these early Muslim-Americans, where did they go, and why didn’t we all learn about them in school? In this episode, we search for American…
Sidedoor Presents: AirSpace
Jan 17, 2018 • 17 min
Join Sidedoor in welcoming AirSpace, a new gravity-defying podcast from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Hosts Emily Martin and Matt Schindell join Tony to share a few upcoming stories, including what’s on the menu in space, how Earth’s…
If These Bones Could Talk
Jan 3, 2018 • 26 min
While we’re hard at work on some exciting new things, we wanted to start the new year off with one of our favorites from 2017: If These Bones Could Talk. Explorer, scholar and 19th Century Smithsonian darling Robert Kennicott seemed destined to lead a…
The Many Lives of Owney the Dog
Dec 20, 2017 • 24 min
120 years ago, Owney was a global celebrity. He was also a dog. And no, he didn’t juggle plates or dance on two legs, Owney was famous for simply riding trains with the US mail. So, climb aboard the Sidedoor Express and join us as we revisit different…
This One’s for Dilla
Dec 6, 2017 • 27 min
Even if you’ve never heard his name, you’ve probably heard his sound. J Dilla was a prolific hip-hop artist who collaborated with many hip-hop greats – from Questlove to Erykah Badu to Eminem. In this episode, we’re telling the story of J Dilla’s life and…
LIVE! Cookin’ Up Stories
Nov 22, 2017 • 27 min
Does your ham sandwich have something to say? Quite possibly. Food can be a powerful storytelling tool. Many chefs, like authors, carefully craft meals or menus to transform a dining experience into a cultural, historical, or educational adventure. This…
The Hungry Hungry Hippo Baby
Nov 8, 2017 • 21 min
A hippo, an orangutan, and a scientist walk into a milk bar… or so our story goes. In January 2017, a baby hippo was born at the Cincinnati Zoo six weeks premature and some 30 pounds underweight. Her name was Fiona, and getting her to put on pounds was a…
Murder Is Her Hobby
Oct 25, 2017 • 25 min
Heiress, divorcée … mother of forensic science? Frances Glessner Lee was not your average 19th century woman. Using the skills that high-society ladies were expected to have — like sewing, crafting, and knitting — Frances revolutionized the male-dominated…
Confronting the Past
Oct 11, 2017 • 24 min
In 1921, a riot destroyed almost 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows exactly how many people died, no one was ever convicted, and no one really talked about it until nearly a century later. In this episode,…
Grandma Turned Me into a Ghost
Sep 27, 2017 • 21 min
Haunted by her not-so-nice grandmother, a young woman finds herself turning into a ghost. Writer Anelise Chen reads her essay “Who Haunts,” and discusses the ways in which our families shape our personal and cultural identities, for better or worse. Chen…
The Man Who Defied Gravity
Sep 13, 2017 • 24 min
In the late 1800s, Paul Cinquevalli was one of the most famous and thrilling entertainers in the world. Tales of his juggling and balancing exploits spanned continents. But by the mid 20th century, his name was all but forgotten. In this episode, Sidedoor…
Artist in Dissidence
Aug 30, 2017 • 17 min
An artist steps in front of a camera and drops a priceless 2000-year-old vase onto the floor, smashing it into a million pieces. This is Ai Weiwei, and the resulting photographs are one of his most well-known works of art. Many were inspired; others were…
LIVE! Unintended Consequences
Aug 16, 2017 • 29 min
Catty gossip that led to a presidential scandal, the earliest mavericks of American cinema, and the risque Roman origins of a favorite Disney character. This week, we bring you tales of small things that snowballed and had outsized impacts on history, art…
The Mean, Green, Water-Cleaning Machine
Aug 2, 2017 • 23 min
In the early 1980s, a scientist invented a machine that could naturally filter out pollution from rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. So, why isn’t it everywhere today? In this episode, we explore the secret behind this powerful green technology…
The Art of War
Jul 19, 2017 • 23 min
In this episode, we look at artists whose work has helped reveal the human side of war. You’ll hear about a famous artist who got his start sketching Civil War soldiers and landscapes, and how he was never the same again. Also featured are two…
Bonus: Ale to the Chief
Jul 12, 2017 • 12 min
In this mini-episode, Sidedoor host Tony Cohn interviews Sam Kass, former Obama White House chef and one of the people responsible for the first beer ever known to be brewed at the White House.
Red, White and Brew
Jul 4, 2017 • 25 min
How much do you know about the history of American home-brewing? In this episode of Sidedoor you’ll meet the Smithsonian’s first brewing historian, Theresa McCulla, and learn about the role of women, enslaved people, and immigrants in the country’s…
If These Bones Could Talk
Jun 20, 2017 • 26 min
Explorer, scholar and 19th Century Smithsonian darling Robert Kennicott seemed destined to lead a full and adventurous life. Then, at the age of 30, on an expedition to Russian Alaska in 1866, Kennicott was mysteriously discovered dead by a riverside.…
Guess Who’s Back
Jun 7, 2017 • 1 min
Sidedoor is back— tell a friend! New season begins on Wednesday, June 21st.
Leave a Message at the Beep
Feb 1, 2017 • 2 min
Tony shares a special thanks and an exciting update for our upcoming season. Share your thoughts by emailing [email protected] or leave a message at 202-633-4120.
Shake It Up
Jan 18, 2017 • 23 min
Transforming things we take for granted: An astronomer who has turned the night sky into a symphony; an architecture firm that has radically rethought police stations; and an audiophile who built a successful record company on underappreciated sounds.
You Do You
Jan 4, 2017 • 19 min
Identity in a complex world: A look at the many roles each person plays in daily life; a group of lesbian feminists create an entirely new culture, religion and society in the 1970s; and Iraqi archaeologists work to preserve their cultural heritage after…
Gaming the System
Dec 21, 2016 • 21 min
Bending the rules: People sending their children through the U.S. Postal Service; a Sikh man in the early 1900s tries to use the Supreme Court’s racist rulings to his benefit; and the little-known story behind the iconic folk song “Rock Island Line.”
Butting Heads
Dec 7, 2016 • 18 min
Squabbles big and small: A dining room turns two besties into lifelong enemies; a researcher embraces the panda craze; and why some dinosaur skulls were built to take a beating.
Mid Season Update
Nov 30, 2016 • 0 min
A quick update from Tony about the show.
Masters of Disguise
Nov 23, 2016 • 18 min
Tales of deception and trickery: A sneaky orchid seeks sexually frustrated pollinator; a battle fought by decoys; and a gender-bending zombie invasion of the Chesapeake Bay.
Confronting the Past
Nov 9, 2016 • 22 min
A 1921 riot destroyed almost 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows how many people died, no one was ever convicted and no one really talked about it until a decade ago. This is the story of the Tulsa Race…
Tech Yourself
Oct 26, 2016 • 20 min
Technology’s grip on us: The 4-1-1 on what’s behind your selfie; an artist’s computer simulation shows humans aren’t as unique as we think; and how the invention of standardized time made America tick.
Special Delivery
Oct 26, 2016 • 22 min
The payoff is all in the delivery: Sending mail via cruise missile; preparing a strong-willed orangutan for primate parenthood; and failing to land a joke from the “gag file” of Phyllis Diller.
Season 1 Tease
Oct 25, 2016 • 0 min
Sidedoor, a new podcast from the Smithsonian, is launching October 26th, 2016. Start subscribing now on iTunes!