Who is the Logan Museum of Anthropology for? This semester, students in Kylie Quave’s Dimensions of Identity course put this question into action in the Beloit community.
“Pop up museums” are experimental, participatory, community-based partnerships that burst open the metaphorical and physical walls of the museum. The concept was first proposed by Michelle delCarlo as a way of fostering inclusive conversations among all sorts of folks. This goal is achieved by creating a temporary and ephemeral space outside the museum where members of the community bring in objects fitting a mutually-chosen theme. Participants may write labels to go with their objects, tell stories about their exhibited objects, perform, create crafts to exhibit – anything goes! The only rule is that the pop up deconstructs traditional notions of the museum, being collaborative and valuing the contributions of community partners.
Scenes from Merrill Elementary’s pop up museum: Celebrating Our Families’ Cultures
Since delCarlo began launching pop up museums, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History has undertaken several years of intensive pop up museum programming with a variety of community partners. With the generosity of the Labs Across the Curriculum fund, we were able to bring Nora Grant of the Santa Cruz MAH to help students in the Dimensions of Identity course (ANTH 220/MUST 295). With her training, they built relationships with community partners and co-created two pop up museum events this semester.
In addition to exhibiting objects, pop up museum participants also completed “weavings” about their families’ cultures. A craft activity gave participants a way to contribute to the museum even if they didn’t bring an object from home.
Beloit College students partnered with EvenStart and the Beloit School District to plan events with teachers and staff from Merrill Elementary and Hackett Elementary. Two pop up museums took place in April with the themes “Where We Come From” and “Celebrating Our Families’ Cultures.” These bilingual events included children and their families, as well as school staff, who brought food to share, significant objects to exhibit, and enthusiasm for conversations and stories.
Just some of the many objects exhibited at the Merrill Elementary pop up museum
The pop up museum is like a potluck meal where everyone brings something to share. Many different voices are valued in a way that can feel unlikely within the walls of a museum. By co-creating these events with community partners, the Logan Museum aims to (1) expand the role of the institution within its community, (2) help more people in our community feel welcome in the museum, and (3) give a voice to those who may not feel their contributions matter. In these ways, the museum takes on an activist role in promoting community integration and engagement and by serving broader populations than our college campus alone.