History major shares his love for Wisconsin’s past
Always listen to your mother.
That’s the lesson Marian University senior Peter Laning learned in launching his Wisconsin history podcast Badger State.
“When I was younger she would tell me I had a great voice for radio, but I didn’t believe it,” Laning said of his mom, who earned a Master of Science in Thanatology from Marian University and was a history major as an undergrad. “But, now that I’ve listened to her, it’s really helped me create something I believe in.”
A Waupun native and home schooled for high school, Laning has always loved history. His grandparents always talked about it and their experiences, and at 17 years old he became a historical reenactor for the War of 1812.
Fascinated by the Napoleonic Wars, Laning had regularly been listening to a French history podcast when the Notre-Dame de Paris fire occurred. Its next episode focused on the cathedral’s history, and having on his mind a TED Talk he had just watched on how to spread a love for history to younger generations, Laning thought – why can’t I do something similar related to Wisconsin?
At the recommendation of Garry Moise, TRiO – Student Support Services/Upward Bound Math and Science program director, Laning downloaded a podcast recording app and hit the ground running.
“It was a cheap and relatively easy way to just get things started, it made things less intensive and was quicker than had I used expensive and more professional equipment,” said Laning, who aspires to one day work in a museum or for the National Park Service.
Laning gathers most of his content ideas from topics and facts the Wisconsin Historical Society shares on its social media platforms, and from there he takes a week to develop scripts, have them reviewed by fellow Marian students, and then fact checking with multiple sources before finally recording in a quiet room he can find on campus.
The first episode went live in early November and was shorter in length, but recently the episodes have been around 15 minutes. One episode is 45 minutes long – it was of a panel discussion he was on for the Wisconsin Historical Society – and Laning will periodically drop holiday-themed episodes when the calendar calls for it, such as his recent episode on the history of Thanksgiving in Wisconsin. Ultimately, the goal is to have each be about half hour in length and to publish one every Friday.
“I think that’s the perfect balance of providing vital, relevant information without missing anything, but also not dragging things out,” Laning said. “The feedback so far has been positive, and I am glad people have been telling me that it sounds like a lot of effort goes into it – because it does.”
As the number of episodes increases, Laning plans on broadening the scope of time he covers. The early 1900s, The Great Depression, and World War II are topics he says he won’t cover for a long time, but he plans to never go beyond the post-Vietnam era of Wisconsin history.
“I just want to spread my love for Wisconsin history with everyone,” Laning said. “If I can teach people things that they otherwise wouldn’t know and give people conversations starters, then I’ll be happy – I just want to see people enjoying history.”