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Sidedoor

More than 154 million treasures fill the Smithsonian’s vaults. But where the public’s view ends, Sidedoor begins. With the help of biologists, artists, historians, archaeologists, zookeepers and astrophysicists, host Lizzie Peabody sneaks listeners through the Smithsonian’s side door, telling stories that can’t be heard anywhere else. Check out si.edu/sidedoor and follow @SidedoorPod for more info.

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Special Delivery

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.

22mins

26 Oct 2016

Rank #1

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The Curse of the Hope Diamond

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 that really constitute a curse? This time on Sidedoor, we track the lore of this notorious gem through the centuries, from southern India, through the French Revolution, and across the Atlantic Ocean to its current home at the National Museum of Natural History, to find out for ourselves.

27mins

8 Aug 2018

Rank #2

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Confronting the Past

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, Sidedoor explores the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why it's important that you know it. Episode originally released Nov. 9, 2016.

24mins

11 Oct 2017

Rank #3

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The Mystery Bones of Witch Hill

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, and the story is way more surprising — and groundbreaking — than anyone could’ve ever imagined. So, grab your Scooby Snacks and join Sidedoor as we journey to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama to see these unusual bones firsthand and meet the “meddling kids” trying to solve a mystery 700 years in the making.

22mins

22 Aug 2018

Rank #4

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If These Bones Could Talk

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. Rumors of all colors circulated about the cause of his death, although, it wasn’t until 135 years later, in 2001, that two Smithsonian forensic scientists cracked the case.

26mins

21 Jun 2017

Rank #5

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Inventor, Photographer...Murderer

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 for something much less savory: murder. This time on Sidedoor, come for the ingenuity and stay for the scandal as we find out how a near-death experience, a handsome horse, and a rumored $25,000 bet helped Eadweard Muybridge change the course of photographic history.

27mins

12 Dec 2018

Rank #6

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Painting Michelle Obama

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 portrait of one of the most iconic women in the world? In this episode of Sidedoor, we journey to Amy's studio to hear exactly how she captured the spirit of Michelle Obama in paint on canvas, and what she thinks of the reactions to her work.

24mins

25 Apr 2018

Rank #7

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Adam Rippon's Olympic Mesh-capades

When professional athletes face the end of their career, many look ahead with uncertainty and wonder: “What’s next?” But when Adam Rippon stood on the Olympic podium in 2018, making history as the first openly gay American to medal at the winter Olympics, he was sure about his next steps. Rippon was a darling of the American Olympic media, entering all of his interviews ready with a joke and a willingness to speak candidly about his personal journey. In this episode, Rippon brings that same attitude to Sidedoor, talking about his Olympic costume, fame, and the male private part that we didn’t realize was private.

21mins

27 Nov 2019

Rank #8

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This Episode Smells

Smell connects us to memories of the people and the places of our lives. But what if it could connect us to a past we’ve never experienced? That's the goal for one team of artists and scientists who used DNA to try to revive the scent of a flower extinct for more than a century.

26mins

16 Oct 2019

Rank #9

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The Dinosaur War

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 good friends who named species after each other, to the bitterest of enemies who eventually ruined each other's lives and careers. Come for the dinos, stay for the grudges. Episode originally aired June 12, 2019.

30mins

2 Oct 2019

Rank #10

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Murder Is Her Hobby

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 century woman. Using the skills that high-society ladies were expected to have -- like sewing, crafting, and knitting -- Frances revolutionized the male-dominated world of crime scene investigation. Her most celebrated contribution: 19 intricate dioramas depicting violent murder scenes. In this episode of Sidedoor, we'll explore Frances's morbid obsession, and discover why the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery chose to put them on display.

25mins

11 Apr 2018

Rank #11

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Masters of Disguise

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.

18mins

23 Nov 2016

Rank #12

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The Woman in the Frame

Did you know that Martha Washington was essential to America’s Revolutionary War effort? Or that Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force behind the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights? According to journalist, writer, and commentator Cokie Roberts, many of America's First Ladies were dynamic, politically engaged trailblazers who are often overlooked. We sit down with the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery director, Kim Sajet, to talk about a recent episode of the museum’s new podcast, Portraits. In it, she and Cokie discuss four First Ladies who are remembered for their influence on American history.  Note: As many of you have probably heard, Cokie Roberts passed away in the days since we originally recorded this episode. Our heart goes out to all of Cokie’s family, friends, and people like us who have enjoyed her work for decades.  Portraits podcast website: https://npg.si.edu/podcasts Portraits of First Ladies featured in the episode: Martha Washington portrait Dolley Madison portrait Eleanor Roosevelt portrait Nancy Reagan portrait

29mins

18 Sep 2019

Rank #13

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Abraham Lincoln: Prankster-in-Chief

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 with a brand-new sound.

32mins

1 Apr 2019

Rank #14

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The Wild Orchid Mystery

You probably know orchids as the big, colorful flowers found in grocery stores and given as housewarming gifts. But those tropical beauties represent only a fraction of the estimated 25,000 orchid species worldwide. While their showy relatives fly off the shelves, North America’s more understated native orchids are disappearing in the wild. Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center are working to protect these orchids and their habitats, but first they need to solve a surprisingly difficult problem: how to grow one.

22mins

7 Aug 2019

Rank #15

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America's First Food Spy

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 explorers who sought exotic crops to enhance America’s diet and help grow the economy. A pioneer among them was David Fairchild, who nabbed avocados from Chile, kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and much more. In this episode, we learn about Fairchild's remarkable adventures and take a surprise trip to the Smithsonian archives to uncover a rare piece of food spy history.

26mins

28 Feb 2018

Rank #16

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Aloha, Y’all

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 the turn of the 20th century. This time on Sidedoor, we follow a familiar sound with an unexpected origin and learn how the steel guitar helped Hawaiians preserve their culture and change American popular music.

29mins

24 Apr 2019

Rank #17

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Butting Heads

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.

18mins

7 Dec 2016

Rank #18

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Gaming the System

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."

21mins

21 Dec 2016

Rank #19

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Murder Is Her Hobby

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 world of crime scene investigation. Her most celebrated contribution: 19 intricate dioramas depicting violent murder scenes. In this episode of Sidedoor, we'll explore Frances's morbid obsession, and discover why the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery has chosen to put them on display.

25mins

25 Oct 2017

Rank #20