Ben Franklin's World has its first sponsor and partner: The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture! Together we are producing "Doing History," a 12-episode series that will answer listener questions about the work historians do and serve as an educational resource for those who teach history.
I am really excited about this series and to work with the folks at the OI.
You can read the official announcement on the Omohundro Institute website.
The partnership between the Omohundro Institute and Ben Franklin's World came about because I asked for help.
When I launched Ben Franklin's World in October 2014, I thought I had considered every aspect of the show: I knew how I would record the show; why I would hire a sound engineer; why I would host my audio files with Libsyn instead of Soundcloud; how long my episodes would be; why my in-show music would be Bach; why my website had to be designed to host a podcast; and why I wanted to call the show Ben Franklin's World.
What I never considered was what I would do when the show became successful:
- How do I choose books to feature on the show when everything publishers send would appeal to my listeners?
- What should I say to those with unrelated services or products who wanted to sponsor Ben Franklin's World or who invited the show to join their non-history podcast network?
- And the most scary (for me) aspect of all: How do I say "no" to colleagues I can't feature on the show?
All of these scenarios came up and they began to appear in April 2015, six months after launch.
The Omohundro Institute: A Resource for Historians
At first, I handled these situations by not handling them. I sent ambiguous replies to all queries because I had no idea what to do. There was no "History Business" course in grad school and the advice my fellow podcasters gave never seemed to fit my situation.
In June, it occurred to me that I should reach out to the only historian who I had ever heard speak about the business side of the profession: Karin Wulf, Director of the Omohundro Institute.
At the time, my e-mail to Karin felt like a "Hail Mary" pass. Our interactions consisted of my asking questions at three talks she gave in Boston between 2011 and 2012. I knew her leadership position at the OI kept her busy. But, I also knew that if anyone could answer my questions it would be her or someone from her organization.
Karin answered my e-mail within a few days. She was familiar with Ben Franklin's World and eager to share her knowledge about the business side of the historical profession.
Our conversations turned into an invitation to visit the Omohundro Institute in Williamsburg, Virginia. Over two days, I exchanged questions, ideas, workflows, and processes with Institute historians and staff. Essentially, they provided me with crash course in how to operate a media business within the world of scholarly history.
My visit and talks with the OI also proved enlightening. I knew the Institute published well-researched early American history books and The William and Mary Quarterly. I also knew they offered a two-year postdoc. But, I did not know the full-scale of the resources the Institute offers early American history scholars: colloquia, non-dissertation fellowships and support, and workshops.
In late November, Karin inquired whether a sponsorship/partnership between the Omohundro Institute and Ben Franklin's World would be possible. The venture would allow me to make use of Institute knowledge and resources, the Institute to introduce its role in early American scholarship to my audience, and for us both to produce a valuable educational resource that will communicate what historians do and how we do it to the world.
"Doing History" with the Omohundro Institute in this way made sense. We are going to create and provide value to my audience, educators, and the profession.
I am really excited to partner with them and I can't wait to share the episodes we produce over the next twelve months.