In this episode, the first in a series, we turn to historic passions: the strong and sometimes obsessive pull of curiosity about the past. Over the next few months, we’ll be speaking to people who have made that curiosity their life’s work – within the historical profession or beyond.

Nell Irvin Painter is uniquely qualified to reflect on the possibilities beyond professional history. After an esteemed career as an historian of race and identity, she retired from her professorship at Princeton and, at age 64, enrolled at art school. Over the last decade she has reinvented herself as a visual artist, her work now held in collections across the US. We talk to her about history, art, imagination, politics, and the limits and possibilities of historical truth. (Photo credit: John Emerson)

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