Two of Clarion University’s historians are seeking to bring the region’s rich history to life and collaborate with the public through a podcast called “Stories from the Pennsylvania Wilds.”
Clarion University history professors Marc Sanko, Ph.D., and Jeffrey Diamond, Ph.D., with technical assistance from Communication professor Matt Albright, created the podcast to make history more accessible to the public, as well as draw on the public's expertise. The Pennsylvania wilds region they plan to cover includes the western part of the state with Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton, Elk, Cameron, Forest, Clearfield, Clarion, Jefferson and northern Centre counties with the occasional reach into Erie and Pittsburgh.
"We came up with the idea over a period of time. It started one evening after work when we met in Clarion and discussed history, our students, new technologies, and making history relevant to our students and community," Diamond said.
Sanko's background in public history and 20th century U.S. offers insight to the region. Diamond's background is in European/global history, focusing on Britain and the British Empire, which offers an international perspective. They hope their combined expertise will make for an exciting show.
"This broad teaching that we do helps us consider how we can talk about the interrelations between global, national and local events," Diamond said. "Our first podcast covering the Great Depression and the 1930s banking crisis is a case in point."
The pair believes the region has plenty of rich material for the podcast. The first episode also focuses on independent women of the Pennsylvania Wilds.
Diamond and Sanko initially planned for upcoming podcasts to feature women's suffrage and the 19th Amendment, but COVID-19 delayed those plans until fall.
"Right now, our next episode or two we hope to produce rather quickly and talk about the history of pandemics, focusing on the responses to those pandemics in Pennsylvania, from colonial times to more recent such as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic in the PA Wilds," Sanko said.
The pair will interview experts like Clarion University biology professor Helen Hampikian, Ph.D., who will discuss the specific biology of this current virus and how it differs from previous pandemics.
The pair also plan to incorporate some of their students' work into the podcast.
"This podcast, we hope, will allow our students to highlight their research, as well as learn how to do basic marketing, work in podcasts/radio, and work with the public," Sanko said. "These are critical skills for new historians that are in high demand in our field."
Some topics they are hoping to cover include regional industries such as lumber, oil, glass and brewing, sports, and the Vietnam War because of the large number of Vietnam War veterans in the area.
Sanko hopes the podcast will help the public tell its stories and form lasting partnerships with historians.
"The Clarion area (and the PA Wilds) have great stories to be told, and we want to blend our resources with our partners (the public) to help tell those stories," Sanko said.
They also want to open the podcasts to student and community questions by asking listeners to comment on any of their social media outlets or simply get in touch with podcasters via email or by their office phones.
"We will then read those questions to our guests as we interview them or answer them ourselves if they are directed at us," Sanko explained. "In the future, we might explore doing a synchronous show where listeners could call in, but I think that might prove more difficult."
Getting to the heart of some stories may take some legwork on their part once social distancing guidelines are lifted.
"Generally speaking though, there is so much history in this region. It will take some travel. No doubt, most of the region's resources are likely not to be digitized, so we will have to physically go to places, but that is part of the fun," Sanko said.
Find and listen to their podcast at: www.anchor.fm/storiespawilds.