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Chapel Hill Public Library launches podcast about town and University monuments

chapel hill library podcast

Co-hosts Danita Mason-Hogans (Left) and Molly Luby record the Chapel Hill Public Library's new local history podcast. The podcast, launched earlier this year, spends the first season discussing the history behind different monuments and markers in Chapel Hill. Photo courtesy of Omar Roque.

The Chapel Hill Public Library has launched its first-ever podcast series in an effort to tell stories Chapel Hill residents may not hear otherwise.

Called Re/Collecting Chapel Hill, each episode in the first season will explain the history behind different public spaces and monuments in the town, starting with the Peace and Justice Plaza and going through topics like Silent Sam and the Chapel Hill Nine.

Molly Luby, the podcast’s co-host and special projects coordinator for the library, said the library has always wanted to do a project like this. After she worked on a local history project with the Historic Civil Rights Commemoration Task Force, she said she started rethinking how the library does history.

She said the podcast was meant to answer the questions people have about Chapel Hill’s markers, and what they say about who we are.

“The reason for that is because we were thinking about, what is the conversation happening right now in Chapel Hill,” she said. “And when we were thinking about this, this is, you know, just a few months after Silent Sam had been torn down, and there were definitely still a lot of protest activity around Silent Sam.”

She said she hopes this podcast makes local history meaningful and accessible for people.

“There are a lot of people whose stories have not been told or don't see themselves reflected in that local history and the local history collection,” she said.

Danita Mason-Hogans, the other host of the podcast, also said she hopes this project allows listeners to explore the relationship between the town and the University over time.

“I think some of the things the community and the University share are local places, like students at UNC often go to the Peace and Justice Plaza. Silent Sam, of course, has been a big issue on UNC’s campus, but it has also been an issue for the local people of Chapel Hill,” she said. “So it’s examining what areas are common areas.”

Mason-Hogans is also a seventh-generation Chapel Hill resident and daughter of one of the Chapel Hill Nine.

“If you view that through a historical lens, that would mean we were here when the University was built, Black folk were here during Jim Crow, Black folk were here during the '70s, during the '80s,” she said. “So what was the social justice footprint that was left by the University?”

The podcast was funded through a grant administered by the state library system, and Luby said the money allowed them to hire three podcast assistants, one of which was Klaus Mayr, a UNC junior.

He said he was responsible for researching and exploring story ideas, and eventually he got to contribute his own interviews.

“Once I spent nearly six hours interviewing someone as we walked around Chapel Hill talking about memories that stay with him and the changes that he's seen since he was growing up here in the '50s,” he said in an email.

He was the only student involved in producing the podcast, and he said he was aware of it at all times — either by adding a student perspective or while he was interviewing residents.

“On the one hand, students have caused many of the unfortunate changes to the community — gentrification, inequality, about 100 too many pizza joints,” he said. “But on the other hand, students also have such beautiful potential here to put our energy, curiosity and skills to good use.”

He said working with people like Mason-Hogans has changed the way he views Chapel Hill, and he thinks it will be the same for the podcast’s listeners.

“You can't listen to all of those stories about how the University and the broader community came to be and then just forget about them,” he said.

That is what Luby and Mason-Hogans are both hoping for.

History should be a tool for assessment that can be used to look at current issues, Mason-Hogans said. Luby said she hopes the podcast tells stories in a way that audiences can learn from them and be inspired.

“What makes me so proud and happy of this podcast is that it really does center the research around local people and allow local people to tell the story,” Mason-Hogans said.

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The first season of Re/Collecting Chapel Hill is about 14 episodes long, Luby said. The first of these was released earlier this month, and the remaining episodes will be released every two weeks.

@ampogarcic

city@dailytarheel.com



Anna Pogarcic

Anna Pogarcic is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and history major. 

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