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Damion Thomas: What Makes a Sports Archive Special?

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

Holding History Podcast

Season 1: Episode 2

What Makes a Sports Archive Special?



"You just can't teach people a bunch of facts and figures...you have to give them this sort of experience that sits with them… I wanted people who can't tell you the difference between a slam dunk and a touchdown to leave and say, 'Wow, I get it. This is significant.'"

-Damion Thomas

Damion Thomas

This episode features a conversation with Damion Thomas, Curator of Sports for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Damion earned a Ph.D. in United States history at UCLA. Prior to joining the museum, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland-College Park and the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, where he taught courses that focused on sports in United States history, sports and U.S. race relations, and sports and black masculinity. He is the author of Globetrotting: African American Athletes and Cold War Politics.


Damion Thomas guides our hosts Sarah Marty and Joshua Calhoun through the archives of the NMAAHC Sports Gallery and into a sprawling conversation about the relationship between sports and culture, and the heavy responsibility of the curator.


If you enjoyed this conversation, your next stop should be the NMAAHC itself, and if you find yourself stuck at home, the museum has recently launched a searchable database of its collection. And to follow up on our conversation with Damion, you can read more about tennis icon Althea Gibson, the Denkert basketball, John Carlos, and the Angola guard tower.


A transcript of this episode can be accessed here.


This episode’s Bookish Word, highlighter, was created by UW-Madison graduate students Caroline McCraw and Helen Smith.


Wherever you find the Holding History Podcast, please like, subscribe, and provide feedback. Use the comment section below, or contact us at holdinghistory@wisc.edu with questions or suggestions.


Thanks for listening!



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