When New York City journalist Bryan Reed heads to the small town Woodstock, Alabama, he’s not in search of peace, love and music. Rather, he’s on the trail of a murder mystery he heard about from John B. McLemore, a local character with a tawdry tale to tell. Does the sleepy place John B. calls “S-Town” hide a horrible secret?
You’ll have to listen to find out—and millions have already tuned in. S-Town, the latest podcast from the producers of Serial and This American Life, racked up over 1.8 million subscribers and more than 16 million downloads in its first week alone. Anchored by geography, the show uses place to delve into the deepest parts of the human experience, delivering quite a few surprises along the way.
But S-Town isn’t the only podcast rooted in geography, identity and history. The internet is awash with shows that delve into the secrets of place and self, from hidden histories to fun facts to context on current events. Don’t know where to start? Smithsonian.com did the work for you.
In alphabetical order below, or in the map above:
Arc Stories – Live stories are the lifeblood of a podcast that covers Southern lives, as told by Southerners.
S-Town – Learn about an Alabama town in a true story that listens like a novel about murder, treasure, and mystery.
Talk of Alaska – If it has to do with Alaska, it’s on this comprehensive show.
Native America Calling – Native American communities are the focus of this call-in show, which links listeners in a “talking circle” about the issues, history, and unique culture of Native American and First Nations peoples.
Arizona.FYI – Explore the history and culture of Arizona with a podcast made by Arizonans. [Note: Some content is explicit.]
Out Loud and Proud! – Pride takes center stage in this podcast about LGBT people in Tucson and Southern Arizona. From coming-out stories to glimpses into how the modern gay rights movement was born, it’s a forum on equality, dignity and activism.
Primary Sources – Politicians, artists, journalists and more gather to bring Arkansas to life.
- Hidden History of Los Angeles – Discover the other side of Los Angeles history with stories you probably haven’t heard about La La Land.
- Bay Curious – Dig deeper into what makes the Bay Area unique in a podcast that’s part history, part local.
- Good Muslim, Bad Muslim – What’s good (and bad) about being a Muslim woman in the United States? Comedian Zahra Noorbakhsh and activist Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed explore.
- The View from Here – Listen to first-person documentaries and digital stories about Sacramento past and present.
- Voice of San Diego – This podcasts puts San Diego’s unique culture into context, with special segments on education, news and the arts.
Changing Denver – This show explores how people are changing Denver—and how the city is, in turn, changing them.
Grating the Nutmeg – Get beneath the surface of Connecticut state history through the efforts of Connecticut Explored and the Office of the State Historian.
History Matters – Go off the beaten path with stories about the lesser-known sides of Delaware.
DISTRICT of COLUMBIA
Our Town – Learn about Washington for Washingtonians with stories on how the city has changed from the 1960s to the present.
State of the re(Union) – Explore how America creates community with a series of love letters to America, hosted by playwright and journalist Al Leston.
Sidedoor – More than 154 million treasures fill the Smithsonian’s vaults, but where public access ends, Sidedoor’s stories begin. With the help of biologists, artists, historians, archaeologists, zookeepers and even astrophysicists, host Tony Cohn sneaks listeners through Smithsonian’s side door, using his insider access to search for stories that can’t be found anywhere else.
- Biscayne Tales – From ghosts of the Old South to the excesses of the Jazz Age, delve into the history of Miami and south Florida.
- Samuel Proctor Oral History Program – Learn about history from Central Florida residents One episode told the story of one Vietnam War veteran who was indicted for attempting to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami.
Atlanta Considered – Atlanta native Rickey Bevington plumbs the depths of Atlanta history and culture in this comprehensive show.
Offshore – From struggles over race and power to a season-long exploration of a sacred mountain, this podcast is 100 percent Hawaii.
Idaho History – Boise State Public Radio investigates into Idaho’s past—and even goes as far back as its prehistoric days.
- Curious City – When the people of Chicago have their curiosity piqued by something in their city, they enlist this podcasting team to answer their questions.
Hoosier History Live – Examine the history of Indiana with a podcast that’s been recorded live for nine years and counting.
Talk of Iowa – Iowans gather to chat about their state’s unique history and culture.
Past and Present – Wichita State history professors look into Kansas’ past—and show how it’s never far from today’s happenings.
The Wisdom Project -The University of Kentucky Libraries pick their favorites among over 10,000 oral histories and interviews.
Beyond Bourbon Street- An Insider’s Guide to New Orleans– This podcast gets into the nitty-gritty of a New Orleans that often isn’t visible to tourists.
Maine Historical Society – The Pine Tree State’s past comes to life with a podcast presented by its historical society.
Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City – Intergenerational stories speak to Baltimore’s charming local history.
- Lore – The darker side of history comes to life in a podcast that finds the truth behind New England’s creepiest urban legends and old wives’ tales.
Created Equal – This Detroit-based podcast explores inequality through a historical lens.
Counter Stories – Come sit at the lunch counter to talk about culture, race and history in a state with rapidly changing demographics.
Mississippi Moments: Voices of Our People, Reflections of Our Past – A vibrant partnership of universities and cultural institutions joins together to shine a spotlight on Mississippi people.
- St. Louis History in Black and White – The struggle for equality comes to life in conversations with people who lived through the Civil Rights Movement and the Ferguson protests.
- Kansas City History – If it happened in Kansas City, it’s covered on this wide-ranging show.
Last Best Stories – These audio stories show that Montana has many a tale to tell.
Omaha History Podcast – Funny friends immerse themselves in their city’s past.
Nevada Yesterdays – Sin City comes to life through its less-famous stories.
New England Today – What’s old is new again in a podcast devoted to the region’s unique culture and rich history.
UnCommon History – This now-defunct podcast focused on unusual and obscure facts from the Garden State.
City on the Edge – Strange history, politics, and ghost stories in a podcast that’s all about Albuquerque.
Bowery Boys – Taking its name from the legendary New York City neighborhood, this podcast looks at the history of New York and its influence on American history.
American Desis – What does it mean to be South Asian in America today? Comedian Akaash Singh and actor Arjun Gupta try to find out with interviews of all kinds of Desis and an exploration of immigration, assimilation and identity.
Latino USA – Every week, this 20-year-old radio show tells the stories of Latinos all over the United States and delves into culture, history, and current events the mainstream media often misses.
- Charlotte Five Podcast – This weekly podcast focuses on all things Charlotte, with a special focus on African-American history.
- Southern Oral History Program – Observe the oral tradition of the American South, as presented by the University of North Carolina.
State Historical Society of North Dakota – This now-defunct podcast shone a spotlight on North Dakota days gone by.
- History Talk from Origins – Current events get a historical twist with this podcast produced by Ohio State University and Miami University.
- The Confluence Cast – Catch local culture and lifestyle in Columbus with this weekly podcast.
Amplified Oklahoma – Oklahoma State University’s Oral History Research Program uses people’s own stories to delve into the state’s past.
Offbeat Oregon History – Step off the beaten path with this podcast about true Oregon stories.
- Where I’m From – Enter the famous and not-so-famous neighborhoods of Philly and learn about the city only locals know.
- Inventing Pittsburgh – Look back at the people and places that made Pittsburgh the place it is today, including stories like how the beloved Steelers got their logo.
- Hurstories – Students from Mercyhurst University delve into local history and put it in national context.
Crimetown – Thrills abound in a podcast steeped in the criminal underbelly of Providence.
- Walter Edgar’s Journal – This rambling podcast explores everything from South Carolina’s colonial roots to its present-day challenges.
- Charleston Time Machine – Mosey through the lowcountry of South Carolina with this aural time machine.
South Dakota History – From prairies to politics and everything in between, South Dakota Public Broadcasting has the scoop on its state’s history.
- One Voice Nashville – Listening is the focus in an oral history podcast dedicated to documenting the stories of real Nashville residents.
- Memphis Type History – It’s the history of Memphis as residents see it—through its typography and signs.
Wise about Texas – A Texas judge describes the history of Texas.
15 Minute History – The University of Texas at Austin feeds history lovers everything from local to world history—all in podcast form.
The Island Wave – Meet the Pacific Islanders of Utah, one story at a time.
Brave Little State – Vermont Public Radio investigates Vermont history. Listeners ask the questions; VPR investigates and answers.
- Virginia History Podcast – Learn about Virginia and national history from someone who should know—a former high school history teacher.
- History Replays Today – Richmond History Project – Tour Richmond through the eyes of its local historians and citizens.
The Seattle Files – Chris Allen teaches local comedians Seattle history in each episode with hilarious results. [Note: Some content is explicit.]
Inside Appalachia – Lend an ear to the stories of Appalachia and the people who live there.
Us and Them – What divides Americans? This podcast asks that questions—and delves into the political, cultural and historical fault lines that keep American apart.
Wisconsin Life – Listen along to unique stories about all facets of life in the Badger State.
The Modern West – Saddle up for a peek at the mountain West’s past and present.