BGSU students bringing astronomical past to life in ‘Eclipsing History’ podcast

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – In anticipation of April’s total solar eclipse, students in a Bowling Green State University history class are producing a five-episode podcast highlighting the eclipse's historical and cultural significance, a unique project that aligns with the University’s commitment to experiential learning.

The “Eclipsing History” podcast features 30-minute episodes on indigenous cultures, astronomic knowledge, religion and magical thinking, eclipse tourism and technologies and the history of emotions. It will be available for download on the University’s website, Spotify and other platforms in late February. 

BGSU graduate and undergraduate students conducted extensive research, developed storyboards and interviewed experts from across North America for the podcast as part of a public history seminar taught by Assistant History Professor Dr. Cheryl X. Dong and Dr. Amílcar E. Challú, associate professor and chair of the BGSU Department of History.

“We provided the guardrails for the project, but the students chose the content based on what really spoke to them,” Dong said. “We empowered the students to make their own decisions and take ownership of this project.”

A total solar eclipse will cross North America on April 8, with the moon covering the sun and casting its shadow onto the Earth's surface. The rare and spectacular event will first be visible in Mexico and continue north through the United States before exiting view in eastern Canada.

BGSU and the surrounding community will be in the path of totality, offering one of the best views anywhere of an event that will not be visible in Bowling Green again until 2099. The University is marking the occasion with numerous activities and events.

Throughout the Fall 2023 semester, students learned the technical aspects of podcasting, including recording and editing audio and refined their storytelling abilities. Graduate student Emily Kay said producing a podcast from start to finish was a valuable learning experience.

“The class taught me so much about podcasting, but even more about protecting history and treating people’s narratives with respect,” Kay said. “You’re the one producing the content, so it’s important to do so in an ethical and considerate manner that represents their story truthfully.”

The podcast was made possible, in part, by Ohio Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which supported the initial research on eclipses and the inclusion of top experts in the field from the United States and Canada.

Producing the podcast was a collaborative effort among several partners at BGSU, the private sector and the community.

Students recorded the episodes in the state-of-the-art Kuhlin Center, home to the School of Media and Communication, and Landon Cina, a graduate student in the College of Musical Arts, composed an original score for the podcast.

Challú said they also relied on help from University Libraries, the physics and astronomy department, art history and the BGSU planetarium. A nonprofit media think tank in Toledo called Midstory provided feedback on the development of the episodes, technical training and support in the final editing process.

Journalists from The Ohio Newsroom and North Carolina Public Radio also provided feedback.

“There is no history without history telling,” Challú said. “There was a strong emphasis on narrative and communication in building this project. It’s key for history students to narrate, and podcasting is a fantastic medium for that. 

“It offers an opportunity to talk about the interconnectedness of North America and our different experiences, but also how things like a total solar eclipse can bring us together.”

Updated: 02/01/2024 02:49PM