Pop-Up Museums


Organizer Michelle DelCarlo's simple pop-up museum instructions

You can produce a meaningful and interactive public program with little more than pencils, paper, and a few work tables.  The pop-up-museum concept can foster and nurture communities within your institution.  Read about a recent pop-up museum experiment in Seattle.  The theme was Thanksgiving and about 20 participants brought several artifacts, photographs, and documents to display for the program.  Each participant wrote labels for his/her contributing piece.

The Seattle event builds on a concept that established the year-long Denver Community Museum (2008).  Whereas the Denver pop-ups focused on participants’ artistic creations, the Seattle pop-up featured artifacts in participants’ possession.  Depending on the cultural heritage institution or the theme it assigns to a pop-up, either of these approaches (or even a mixture) could yield great community engagement rewards.

For a bigger event, try pairing the pop-up museum with one or more of the following activities:

  •  a wine and cheese “opening reception”
  • an information session on collections care
  • scanning or photographing the contributing pieces

One advantage to including a related activity is that it allows multiple levels of participation.  Audience members who do not want to bring in artifacts can still participate as visitors or spectators, rather than as exhibit creators.

Pop-Up Museums are the kind of content-creating opportunities for museum participants that Nina Simon has discussed extensively in her book, The Participatory Museum.  These programs can further institutional missions by increasing community engagement.  Best of all, the requirements for space and materials are minimal.  Why not try a pilot with a group of your organization’s volunteers and/or board members?  That experience can help your staff tweak their pop-up museum program designs before opening the event up to a broader audience.


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on November 29, 2011, in collections access, collections care, Exhibitions, historic houses, historic sites, museums, public programs and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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