We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again. The World Is Yours walked so that Smithsonian’s Sidedoor podcast could run. This National Radio Day, we’re taking a look and listen back to our collection of audio records of episodes of The World Is Yours, Smithsonian’s first radio program, which aired on June 7, 1936. In weekly, 30-minute episodes, voice actors engaged audiences by telling dramatized stories about various topics, from women’s history to public health. Experts from around the Smithsonian were involved in consulting, reviewing, and approving episode scripts, and it quickly became one of the most successful educational radio programs of its time.
This collection had been a staff favorite for a while, and we knew we wanted you to hear it, too. Unfortunately, the episodes were trapped on at-risk lacquer transcription discs and degraded ¼-inch open reel audio tapes that we did not have the resources to digitize. But, after a few not-so-successful attempts to secure funding, the Archives received funding from the National Collections Program to preserve the audio materials.
This winter, the digitized audio was returned from our outside vendor, and since May 2020, we’ve been highlighting various episodes of the program through monthly blog posts.
So, click on the episode titles below, pop on those headphones to listen to clips (or just read along), and enjoy! Come for the old-timey radio accents. Stay for the genuinely cool content!
“The Evolution of Life,” aired November 1, 1936
In this episode, the narrator takes listeners on a tour of the specimens and fossils located in the United States National Museum. The dramatizations begin with the discovery of trilobite fossils by Smithsonian Secretary Charles D. Walcott and end with Thomas Jefferson’s discovery of the bones of a giant sloth in a cave in Virginia, which he mistook for the bones of a lion.
“Man Against Germs,” aired March 28, 1937
What was the discussion surrounding germs like in the 1930s? This episode was centered around the public health exhibit at the United States National Museum. The discussion started with a brief overview on germs and how they can affect humans, and then jumped to various instances of scientific discoveries about germs.
“Flying the Ocean,” aired October 10, 1937
As they examined the planes on display at the United States National Museum, the program’s host and his friend reflected on how travel across the ocean had changed in the previous fifty years. The episode features reenactments of experiments with balloon travel, the first successful transatlantic flight, and Charles Lindbergh’s solo nonstop flight from New York to Paris.
“Smithsonian Annual Report of Scientific Progress,” aired November 7, 1937
Every year, the Smithsonian selects articles and reports from scientific journals around the world to highlight in its annual report. This episode contains dramatizations of five of the articles from the 1936 annual report. The featured clips surround the science behind the Northern Lights and how diatoms were used to prove that ship captains were pouring sea waters into molasses to increase the volume of their shipments.
- “The World Is Yours: Smithsonian on the Radio,” by Jennifer Wright, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “Preserving ‘The World Is Yours’,” by Kira Sobers, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “Stabilizing Lacquer Transcription Discs,” by Alison Reppert Gerber, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “Hearing the World Is Yours,” by Kira Sobers, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “The World Is Yours: Flying the Ocean,” by Kira Sobers, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “The World Is Yours: The Evolution of Life,” by Kira Sobers, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “The World Is Yours: The Smithsonian Annual Report of Scientific Progress,” by Kira Sobers, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives