Posted by Nora on March 8, 2013
I’ve mentioned the Pop Up Museum is a museum outside of the museum. Inviting anyone to share meaningful stories and objects in a co-created, temporary “museum” space, it brings people together through stories, art, and objects.
But because the stories from past pop ups have been so varied and powerful, we want to show them inside the MAH as well. So, what does this mean?
It means we’ll have monthly Pop Up Museums here at the MAH, in which selected content will be showcased in display cases for a month. Each month we’ll choose a new theme. You’ll be invited to submit an object and story related to the theme. If selected, your object and story will be displayed for a month and contribute to the museum’s rotating exhibitions.
The first month-long Pop Up Museum will open with our upcoming exhibition PHOTO ID. The theme is “My Family” and the deadline to submit is fast approaching: March 15th
To be considered for this Pop Up, submit a photo of the object and a 50 word maximum story to Nora Grant via email at email@example.com. The story will serve as the label for your object. Because we’re most interested in why this artifact is meaningful to you, please keep the story in first person. We will display the object- not the photo of the object. The object must be able to fit inside a case that is 2 feet on each side.
Temporary Pop Up Museums will still pop up around Santa Cruz County with different themes and locations, keeping their ephemeral, spontaneous charm. You can stay up to date with upcoming Pop Ups on MAH’s event’s calendar and by following our Pop Up Museum blog.
We are still working out the future details for this new and exciting component to the Pop Up Museum, but are so excited to learn and share your stories!
Posted by Marla on March 7, 2013
Evergreen Cemetery Committee volunteer and historian Sangye Hawke shares more research and thoughts about a former Santa Cruz resident.
Who was Marie Holmes? A brothel owner? A prostitute? A haunting apparition on a YouTube video? ,
When her headstone returned to the MAH, a new team of volunteer researchers approached Marie’s history with fresh eyes. The last investigation into Marie’s past was done in 1997. It was time for a second look. Why had such a young person choose to end her life, and most importantly, were certain assumptions made about Marie based on fact or cultural bias? We began a whole new investigation into the life of a figure that has haunted us for over half a century. One thing was clear, working in a house of ‘ill repute’ did not automatically make one a prostitute but, in cultural norms of the time, it did make one ‘questionable’.
Here are the facts of the case as stated in her Sentinel obituary, (May 6, 1898):
Marie Holmes ‘ name was an alias. She never told anyone about her past, but her companions knew she had left a child behind. She had tuberculosis. Marie came to Salinas first, where she tried to use a pistol to end her life. Afterwards, she moved on to Watsonville and six months later, Santa Cruz, where she became “an inmate of a house of ill repute on Pacific Av.[sic]” She spoke to a friend, Gladys Mills, on the day she died, about wanting to end her life, but was talked out of it. Instead, she made dinner reservations, and arranged a ride to the train station the next day. A half an hour later, she drank carbolic acid and collapsed on the corner of Mission and River Streets. She died within 15 minutes. She was 21 years old.
Conventional norms of the time stated prostitutes were shunned by the community. Yet, her funeral was an event of beauty: “Floral pieces were on the casket,…sympathy from her companions down whose cheeks the tears coursed….A choir sang….Beautiful and tender were the sentiments …” (Santa Cruz Daily Surf May 6, 1898) All paid by the woman Marie had lived with.
Further analysis of obits, previous historians’ notes and opinions, we found out Marie burned “all the letters she recently received.” A five cent piece was found in her purse. Frank Towne, the son of a former county supervisor, was the man she had engaged to take her to the train. Marie gave him a pink carnation. A half hour later, she was dead.
Marie’s true last name was either Phelps or Phillips, according to historian Phil Reader’s notes . A transcription of this letter (written in 1927), found by Reader at the University of Wyoming archives, (UW later wrote back that the letter was not in their archives), detailed Marie’s now grown daughter, Lisa, searching and finding her mother’s headstone with full knowledge of her mother’s past. Sometime after this, the headstone was removed from its plot. It was later found by a young homeless man, discarded in a deep canyon. This man, like Marie was, is fighting cultural assumptions about his place in this community. If anything, more questions about Marie have arisen, reminding us to challenge convention and use our personal assumptions as investigative leads, rather than substitutions to the truth. Thank you, Marie and, welcome back.
What’s next? A full search for Lisa Phelps/Phillips, finding a hard copy of her letter, and perhaps even a living descendant are the next steps in closing this case. Join our Archive Team at Evergreen@santacruzmah.org.
Posted by Nora on February 19, 2013
How do we deal with heartbreak? What do we do with the memory-wrenching remnants of a failed relationship?
The Pop Up Museum on “F my Ex” held at local bar, The Red, invited people to bring something from a failed relationship– art, cd’s, old clothes, etc– and share their breakup stories over cocktails and a roaring fireplace.
The result was a powerful gathering of friends and strangers sharing highly intimate stories and objects. See more pictures on MAH’s facebook album.
Inspired by the Museum of Broken Relationships, we wanted to throw a Pop Up that got at the raw, emotional pain of heartbreak. For those unaware, the Museum of Broken Relationships exhibits personal belongings and stories from people all over the world. As they put it,
The Museum offers a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum’s collection…Our societies oblige us with our marriages, funerals, and even graduation farewells, but deny us any formal recognition of the demise of a relationship, despite its strong emotional effect.
The emotional effects of failed relationships are strong to say the least. Arresting, sometime debilitating, we often don’t know what to do with ourselves, let alone the objects left behind. We offered people a chance to confront and reclaim the physical leftovers of past loves by sharing them with others.
In addition to the participants’ objects, the MAH exhibited a few items from our permanent collection, including a turn-of-the century diary detailing an adulterous marriage.
Having “F my Ex” the day before Valentines Day gave it a thematic boost. “F my Ex” is often a subtext of bar conversations (especially those held around Valentines), thus the theme gave people a legitimate reason so share love stories. Supported by visually powerful objects, the conversations didn’t just consist of drunk lamenting— though The Red’s Pop Up Happy Hour Special didn’t hurt.
Not everyone brought something to exhibit, or knew of the event at that, but it didn’t take long for most bar patrons to be sharing “F my Ex” stories.
“F my Ex” is a bold theme, perhaps equally attractive, as it is off-putting. When distributing flyers, many recipients laughed, saying “f*** yeah,” “this is awesome” or something of the likes. But in promoting the event on MAH’s newsletter, we upset one of our longtime MAH members and history lovers, who was concerned the theme misrepresented the holiday.
This disparate audience response raised questions over how we should target Pop Up Museums – which are more so for nontraditional audiences – to our Museum’s traditional audience.
Museum director Nina Simon asked, “should we pull our traditional audience along with us to this new world of programming, or are we developing this new program to build a bridge to people with different concerns and hangups?”
We don’t have the answers yet. But we believe the tension that arises with more daring themes will help us learn more about our potential audience, as well as what kinds of programming people expect from a museum. Are people less likely to participate in an establishment which promotes events they find occasionally offensive?
Perhaps we can consider the Pop Up Museum as MAH’s wacky cousin— slightly remote, unpredictable, and less constrained to traditional expectations, the Pop Up Museum explores social and individual behavior through isolated thematic contexts. Each Pop Up is a unique social project, one that not only experiments with social interaction through physical media, but people’s expectations of the “museum experience.”
Posted by Marla on
The beginning of the New Year brought our nation’s presidential inauguration, and seeing all the pomp and tradition (and this being the month of Presidents’ Day), it got me thinking about people in authority, formal portraiture, and historic perception. When I work in the MAH’s collection room, I often glance up at the portrait of the first mayor of Santa Cruz. His name was William F. Cooper, but I like to call him Moses. Take a look at this painting and you’ll see why.
Painted by local artist Lillian Heath, Mayor Cooper is shrouded in green and tan drapery, his lined face (attributes of wisdom and knowledge) house brown eyes that gaze reassuringly at the viewer. This is a man you can trust. His long white beard completes his wise look, and reminds me of an Old Testament figure. The effect is on purpose, allowing the viewer to imagine the mayor as an almost divine being from a different time than when it was painted. I’m pretty sure Mr. Cooper didn’t walk around town in garb like that, even if it was 19th century Santa Cruz. Doesn’t he look like an extra from the movie, The Ten Commandments?
Mayor Cooper appears to be an honorable man, and by all accounts he was. Born in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, William F. Cooper came to Santa Cruz in 1849, and opened the Cooper Brothers Mercantile Store with his brother on Main Street (now Front Street, where the MAH is now). William was known to be kind to the Native Americans at the Santa Cruz Mission, and according to local historian Margaret Koch, he “slipped many a sack of flour or bag of beans or warm blanket to some…” Hmmm, not exactly parting the Red Sea, but random acts of kindness are admirable.
The portrait of Mayor Cooper was painted in the neo-classical style, which was all the rage in mid to late 19th century art. Neo-classicism portraiture and history painting get a bad rap now, due mainly to the overly romanticized images used to heighten the importance of their subjects. Was George Washington an amazing general and president? By all account he was. Did he cross the Delaware looking as steadfast and dapper as depicted in numerous paintings? I’m guessing not.
I love history paintings like the portrait of Mayor Cooper. When we first accepted the painting into the collection, the MAH’s collections management committee had some lively discussions about it. Is this questionable art with a good story or just weird? Is this art or is it history? I think it’s both and that’s what makes it so wonderful for our collection. And the role of Moses is played by Mayor Cooper.
Posted by Nora on January 31, 2013
The Pop Up Museum is usually a totally public event. Its inclusiveness is part of its radical charm—it’s free and open to all. Anyone can bring an object and anyone can visit the museum. But we wondered…what would a private Pop Up Museum look like?
So we collaborated with NextSpace, a coworking community who provides a professional atmosphere and networking opportunities upon membership, to throw a Pop Up Museum during their weekly happy hour. The Pop Up Museum was open to NextSpace members only, allowing the museum to be a fun twist on a private social event. In fact, Grasshopper.com recognizes the Pop Up Museum as a community builder in their blog post.
The theme for this Pop Up Museum was “Taking a Risk.”
People were invited to bring an object that symbolized a professional, personal, or physical risk they’ve taken in their life, and share their stories as they sipped red wine and enjoyed cookies donated from Pacific Cookie Company.
Within a few minutes of setting up, members began filling the frames with risk-taking tokens and writing stories on blank labels. Check out our digital exhibit on Pinterest.
Not everyone who showed up to the happy hour knew to bring something to share, but that didn’t stop them from participating. Inspired by the theme and other exhibitors, people pulled objects from around the room and placed them in frames, coming up with stories on the fly. An impromptu pop up pursued.
This spontaneous thinking demonstrates how the Pop Up Museum encourages people to rethink the stuff and space around them. What happens when you take a dollar out of a wallet and put it in a frame? The dollar becomes objectified and aestheticized. It becomes a symbolic object suggestive of a story. The Pop Up Museum can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary in a casual and even spontaneous fashion. A common workspace becomes a playful gallery.
It is also true that people inspire people. Because other members were participating, those who didn’t bring objects wanted to join in on the fun.
After doing this personalized pop up, we realized the Pop Up Museum is a great format for groups who want to add a dash of structure or creativity to any social event. One man mentioned he was inspired to have a Pop Up Museum at his next dinner party.
Simple, yet malleable, you can tailor the museum to fit your event— including private parties. Why not throw a Pop Up Museum at your next birthday party? Or staff meeting? Or family reunion? There’s not one way to POP, and the Pop Up Museum is your opportunity to explore different means of bringing people together.