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 and follow @SidedoorPod for more info.


Washington DC, United States


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 and follow @SidedoorPod for more info.






1000 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington DC, 20013


Lights Out

Most people in North America can't see the Milky Way. The reason? We're ensconced in a luminous fog of artificial lighting 24/7. The evolution of lighting technology over the last century has made it possible to live, work, and play at any hour - day or night. But light pollution affects all life on earth, from humans to plants and insects. So, how did we find ourselves surrounded by a glowing shroud of electricity... and can we have the dark, without giving up the light? Guests: Hal...


The Phantom Violins

When Sidedoor listener Cliff Hall bought a used violin, he found a tattered note tucked alongside the century-old instrument. Obsessed with this cryptic piece of paper, Cliff’s quest to find the owner of the violin unlocked a tale of subterfuge, scandal, and the Smithsonian’s first donation of rare instruments. Guests: Deborah Shapiro, reference archivist at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Smithsonian Libraries and Archives Cliff Hall, violin teacher and freelance...


It’s Season Nine!



Love Letters

They bring out the voyeur in us. And the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art is full of them. In three short letters, we offer a glimpse of tender moments in the complex lives of others. Guests: Josh T. Franco, Head of Collecting at the Archives of American Art. Liza Kirwin, Interim Director of the Archives of American Art. Jenny Williams, Associate Director for Advancement at the Archives of American Art.


The Cabbage Patch Kids Riots

In 1983, the Cabbage Patch Kids were released, causing widespread pandemonium in toy stores and in the media. How did a children's toy inspire such bad adult behavior? Slate’s Decoder Ring podcast explores the strange world of the Cabbage Patch Kids to figure out why they hit it so big. The answer involves butt tattoos, slightly grotesque faces, industrial innovations, an origin story in a cabbage patch, and serious accusations of copyright theft. We’ll be back with new episodes of Sidedoor...


King's Speech

This MLK Day we're digging into the story behind Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech —from its first draft to a rhyming poem and, finally, to the speech we all know today. This episode was previously released in February of 2022.


The Monumental Imagination of Augusta Savage

Public monuments to honor Black Americans in the 1930s: that was the vision of Augusta Savage, a Harlem Renaissance sculptor who has been called one of the most influential artists of the 21st century. But the monuments she left behind might not be what you'd expect. Guests: Karen Lemmey, Lucy S. Rhame Curator of Sculpture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum Grace Yasumura, assistant curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum Tess Korobkin, Professor of American Art at University...


A Very Merry Sidedoor

What is it about a mistletoe that says “smooch?” And what the heck is figgy pudding anyway? The holidays are here again, and with them come songs, foods, and rituals so familiar we may not think to ask where they come from...until now! In this holiday special, we track down the origins of some puzzling Christmastime traditions, jingling all the way from Norse mythology to Victorian home cooking, the Emancipation Proclamation, and even out of this world. Guests: Margaret Weitekamp, chair of...


Lucy Hicks Anderson

Known for her smashing parties, lighter-than-air souffles and comedic wit, Lucy Hicks Anderson never let anyone tell her how to live her life – not even the courts. When her gender was put on trial in the 1940s, the publicity around her case made her one the first documented Black transgender figures in American history. Guests: Ashleigh Coren, Acting Head of Education for the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative C. Riley Snorton, author of Black on Both Sides: A Racial History...


Reservation Math: Navigating Love in Native America

If you’ve heard the phrase, “full blooded,” you’re already familiar with the concept of blood quantum. But Native Americans are the only peoples in the United States whose identity is defined by it. Through the photography of Tailyr Irvine, displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian, we take a look at the colonial origin story of blood quantum: where it came from, why it endures, and how it continues to impact the most personal decisions many Native Americans make about love and...


Wronging the Wrights

It took pride, deceit, and a giant catapult to set off the feud between the Wright brothers and the Smithsonian. On December 17, 1903, the Wrights made history when they flew across a blustery beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The airplane they flew that day is now a centerpiece of the National Air and Space Museum’s collection. This is the story of how it nearly wasn’t. Guests: Peter Jakab, senior curator at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Tom Crouch, senior curator...


Who Built the White House?

"I wake up every morning in a house built by slaves." After Michelle Obama said those words at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, thousands of Americans flooded the White House Historical Association with calls. Who were the enslaved African Americans who built the White House? This led historians from the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and the White House Historical Association on a years-long journey that turned up some interesting answers and...


Spooked at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Institution was founded on principles of reason and scientific inquiry. So why is the museum home to countless tales of unexplained phenomena and —dare we say — ghost sightings? Inspired by an apparition at the National Museum of American History, we creak across the floorboards of the museum's attics, sneak into an old house in the woods, and even travel back in time to bring you a collection of spooky stories that can only be found at the Smithsonian. Guests: Molly...

Did Meat Make Us Human?

Eating meat is what made us human. At least, that's one of the leading theories to explain how our brains got so big. The theory says that our human ancestors evolved bigger brains as a result of switching from a plant-based to a nutrient-rich meat diet. But earlier this year a Smithsonian researcher discovered that this theory may not have as much meat on its bones as previously believed. Guests: Briana Pobiner, paleoanthropologist; research scientist and museum educator with the Human...


Love in the Time of Emoji

When LOL just isn't enough to respond to a friend's killer joke, emoji are there for you. But for many people, there isn't an emoji to represent them or the things they want to say. This has pushed activists, designers, and straight up regular folks to create their own emoji. It's not as easy an undertaking as you might think, but every now and then one of these new emoji is so innovative it breaks the digital mold and finds itself in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. In this...


Dynamo Dot

Dorothy Liebes was a whirlwind in the weaving world. Throughout the 1930s, she spun luxury fabrics so bold and colorful that their style could only be described as the "Liebes Look." But when the United States entered World War II, she wondered how an artist like herself could be helpful at a time when “there would be no need for luxuries.” What she didn’t know was that wartime would bring an opportunity to put her weaving skills to work in an entirely new way. Joining forces with the...


Sumo Wrestlers vs. Firefighters

In 19th century Japan, two sumo wrestlers faced down dozens of firefighters in a brawl so epic it inspired a Kabuki play. But the story of what really happened —and who the heroes are— is all a matter of perspective. Underdogs, antiheroes and villains. How do we decide who plays what role? Guests: Kit Brooks, Japan Foundation Assistant Curator of Japanese Art at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art Frank Feltens, Japan Foundation Associate Curator of Japanese Art at the...


Culture in Crisis

"This is a war not only for the territory. This is war against our culture," says Ihor Poshyvailo, director of the Maidan Museum in Kiev, Ukraine. Ukraine has scores of museums, cemeteries, archeological sites, and places of worship where Ukrainian history and national identity are memorialized. But when bombs are exploding, who’s pulling a sculpture from the rubble? Enter the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative: a team flung together by a deadly earthquake in Haiti that grew through...


Hubble Trouble

As NASA releases the James Webb Space Telescope's first images, we focus our lens on its predecessor: the Hubble Space Telescope. Prepare for liftoff, as we explore how America's first large space telescope went from a "billion-dollar blunder" to one of history's most important scientific instruments. Guests: Samantha Thompson, curator of science and technology at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Robert Smith, former space historian at the Smithsonian's National Air and...


A Star-Spangled Bonus Episode

Which came first, the flag or the song? Sidedoor is celebrating this Independence Day with a special bonus episode: the story behind our Star-Spangled Banner. Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History military curator Jennifer Jones explains the origin and meaning behind the national anthem through the tattered piece of wool that lies at the heart of the museum. What are ramparts anyways? You'll find out! Guest: Jennifer Jones, military curator at National Museum of American History