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Post Pop Up: Afterthoughts on MAH’s First Pop Up Museum

Posted by on October 8, 2012

When planning MAH’s first Pop Up Museum on “Objects of Conflict” with the Resource Center for Nonviolence, a chorus of questions rang through my head:

The Pop Up Museum on “Objects of Conflict”

How should we advertise the event?

Who will come?

What will people bring?

Will people socialize with each other?

How should we design the space?

Now that the Pop Up has popped so to speak, here are some answers to these questions:

How should we advertise the event?

Because the Pop Up Museum website isn’t up and running yet (stay tuned!) we advertised the event through facebook, MAH’s website, and word of mouth. We also encouraged the Resource Center for Nonviolence to promote the event through their resources. Making flyers for Pop Ups will be helpful once the Pop Up Museum becomes more recognized within the community.

Who will come?

12 people participated by bringing an object and writing a label. 1,160 people visited the MAH for first Friday festivities, and roughly half of them walked through the Pop Up Museum and read labels and viewed objects.

What will people bring?

People brought objects from the intimate to the extraordinary: One man

A man speaks out about his facial hair misfortunes

who desperately wants a beard but can’t seem to grow one brought a razor. Another man brought a bottle of water and talked about water conservation and desalination. One woman brought a swastika army patch, and spoke of the powerful, emotive forces of symbols. Other objects included a redwood tree branch, a digital camera, a cell phone, a fence post, an air raid helmet, cake, a Day Worker Center pin, a reflective slap bracelet, and a thanksgiving greeting card. It was interesting to see the different ways in which participants interpreted the word “conflict” and how they chose to represent their idea of conflict through common objects.

Will people socialize with each other?

visitors chatting over a table of displayed objects

People were socializing, but the conversation was not always focused on the displayed objects. People came and went fluidly. The Pop Up took place during a First Friday, and most participants dropped off their objects and went to participate with other activities instead of gathering to talk with one another. Because people were not always near their objects, some people wrote comments on the object’s labels instead of talking to the owner of the object. Perhaps people would have discussed the objects more and gathered more cohesively had the Pop Up not taken place during a museum event.

How should we design the space?

We used three folding tables, black tablecloths, folding chairs, and hand made signs. The pro of this simple set up is its ease and accessibility. It took about an hour to set up. Many people could replicate this simple model. The con is that the space was not that aesthetically catchy.

we used folding tables, black tablecloths, and simple hand written labels to set up the space


No doubt, each Pop Up will have its own culture. Variables such as the theme, the venue, and the participants will affect the Pop Up’s dynamic. But what is extraordinary about the Pop Up Museum is that it invites anyone to participate in the museum experience of curating and being in an exhibition. Sure the scale of the Pop Up Museum is much smaller than a typical museum show, but still, people get to display their special objects, write about them however they choose, and show them to other participants and visitors. This innovative inclusiveness is what makes the Pop Up Museum so daring— it’s created not solely by a small group of professionals, but by everyone who shows up to participate.

The next Pop Up Museum will take place at the MAH on Oct 19th from 5-7 pm in the second floor lobby. The theme is “Collections.” So for all of you who have collections that rival the collections in our current exhibition “Santa Cruz Collects,” here’s your time to show them off!


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