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The Last Archive is a history show. Our evidence is the evidence of history, the evidence of archives. Manuscripts, photographs, letters and diaries, government documents. Facebook posts, Youtube videos, DVDs. Oral histories. This stuff is known as the “historical record,” but of course it’s not a record, in the sense of an audio recording: It’s everything. We wrote our scripts from that historical record, the evidence of the past. In those scripts, we make arguments about history. The nation-state, social movements, cultural history, the history of politics and technology, science and medicine—and especially the history of knowledge.

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. She is pictured along the gates of Harvard Yard. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

In season 4 of The Last Archive, host Ben Naddaff-Hafrey digs into the history of truth in 20th century America. These six stories trace a history of how we know what we know, and why it seems sometimes lately as if we don’t know anything at all. Through gripping narratives about the history of automation, the forgotten origins of social network theory, invasive species panics, freelance wiretappers, sci-fi family histories, and time travel, The Last Archive Season 4 is a thrilling look at the history of knowledge.

On this episode of The Last Archive, the story of the composer Raymond Scott’s lifelong quest to build an automatic songwriting machine, and what it means for our own AI-addled, ChatGPT world.

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