By Mahreen Khan
The hosts of “Past Present,” a nationally broadcast podcast that reflects on present political and cultural issues through the lens of history, will be live-taping their 93rd episode on Tuesday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. at John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor.
The three 20th century political historians behind the podcast, Neil Young, Nicole Hemmer and Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, launched the podcast in October 2015. Mr. Young and Ms. Hemmer, who were both Ph.D. students in U.S. History at Columbia, worked under the same dissertation advisor there.
“We were both really big podcast fans. I’m an avid podcast listener, and just really loved that medium and loved what was happening in the podcast space in the last five years or so,” Mr. Young, a Wainscott resident, said. “Back in 2015, we realized that we really wanted to create a history podcast that replicated the types of conversations that we had as people who saw the world through the lens of historical analysis.”
Mr. Young was also good friends with Ms. Petrzela — a resident of Springs — so when the time came he and Ms. Hemmer approached her, inquiring about any prospective interest she might have had in joining forces.
“Neil and I have strong connections here,” Ms. Petrzela said. “We first met over lobster rolls at Bostwick’s when a friend who doubted there were many ‘historians in the Hamptons’ connected us.”
Fast forward 91 episodes later and the podcast hitting iTunes’ “New and Noteworthy” chart within its first month of running, it now boasts an estimated 10,000 listeners per week.
“It’s a really wonderful thing for us, we’re really excited about it,” John Jermain Memorial Library Director Catherine Creedon, said. “It is going to be their first live podcast. They usually do a remote podcast and have listeners from all over the world, so it’s an opportunity for the community to experience how a podcast is produced and how it comes together, but also to be live in the stream of discussions that will be taking place.”
The group has confirmed that they will be speaking on the history of libraries and the history of the Hamptons, but their third topic of discussion has not yet been determined. They cover three segments each week, often dedicating one to a recent development or breaking story. The story does not have to be “newsy” per se, but everything from major headlines to anniversaries and special events are fair game.
“We’ve wanted to do a live podcast taping for some time and I approached Catherine because I’d been to several public events there and am just excited by all the great programming they have,” Mr. Young said about the upcoming event. Ms. Petrzela agreed, adding that the Past Present team frequently discusses “what a fascinating and historically significant region eastern Long Island is.”
“I do think right now, in this moment that we’re in, libraries serve a really important purpose in our culture as a place of community, a place of more than just checking out books, but a place where people can come together and learn in all sorts of different forms,” Mr. Young said.
The live event will run from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18. For more information, register at John Jermain Memorial Library, 201 Main Street in Sag Harbor or call (631) 725-0049.