THE WENDE MUSEUM’S JUSTIN JAMPOL LAUNCHES “LOST SECRETS” ON THE TRAVEL CHANNEL
By Christina Campodonico
Were Nazi leaders believers in astrology? Did espionage by former slaves help the North win the Civil War? Was the Space Race really an elaborate cover for weaponizing the cosmos?
These are all questions that Wende Museum founder Justin Jampol seeks to answer in his new TV show “Lost Secrets,” which debuts on the Travel Channel at 11 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday (Nov. 10).
In the six-part series, Jampol (who has PhD in history from Oxford) travels the world to investigate historical mysteries spurred by unusual objects or theories (think horoscopes drawn up for the Nazi leadership, or the possibility that a Viking woman could have “discovered” America) and taps his network of experts and scholars to ask “provocative questions” about the past as well as show that history is not “just written in stone” or made up of “old dusty things.”
“I want to do a history-mystery adventure show where we can give people a taste of how history is constantly changing, and we’re making these new discoveries,” says Jampol. “It felt like an extraordinary opportunity… to add a bit of mystery and wonder to history.”
The TV show is Jampol’s chance not only play a real-life Indiana Jones, but also to inspire people to approach history with an adventurous attitude, just like the famed fictional big screen archaeologist (also a hero from Jampol’s youth) would.
“I can tell you that movie probably created more historians and archaeologists than any fantastic textbook because no one goes from nothing to like cultural historian, PhD,” says Jampol. “I wanted to have what I would call an opportunity to give young people a gateway drug for history.”
Another role model for the show is Anthony Bourdain.
“I’ve always thought that what good historians do is not unlike a good journalist… or somebody like Anthony Bourdain,” says Jampol. “If you know the right sort of questions to ask, and if you’re curious about people, it unlocks something much bigger than the thing itself. … The adventure always started either with a theme or a topic or a question about a historical period or episode, but ultimately it was about the people we met along the way that I think really give it its lifeblood.”
For “Lost Secrets” executive producer Daniel Schwartz, Jampol’s extensive “Rolodex of amazing experts and scholars” as well as his “approachable” personality and adventurous embrace of history (like his willingness to spelunk through underground German tunnels), make him the ideal host for this show that aims to give a gripping — or as Schwartz puts it quoting Stephan Colbert — “grippy” treatment of history. That’s also accomplished through the twists and turns that each historical object featured in the show takes, observes associate producer Samantha Lawyer.
“I think an interesting piece of this show is the idea that we’re really just working off of one specific object and following that trail as far as it goes. …You really get to see how it starts with one tiny object or piece of history, and it ends up really unraveling a lot.”
“Justin connects, through these objects, our past with the present,” adds Schwartz. “And he brings our history to life by unlocking the mysteries with these items one object at a time.”
As for whether the Nazis actually believed in horoscopes… you’ll have to tune in to find out.
“Lost Secrets” debuts at 11 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday (Nov. 10) on the Travel Channel. Visit travelchannel.com or follow @travelchannel for additional content and updates.