The Pop-Up Museum

Topic: Culture Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibit

by Michelle DelCarlo

Published on June 20, 2012

  • Museum: Michelle DelCarlo, University of Washington Focus: Culture

  • People who worked on this: Ken Smith, Kris Morrissey

  • My role: I direct The Pop-Up Museum from Seattle, Washington.

  • Description and goals

    The concept of The Pop-Up Museum is that, based on a theme, people are invited to exhibit their own objects and share their own stories. It is a traveling community event, the goal being to create conversation between people of all ages and walks of life. At each pop-up, participants write labels for their objects and then bring these objects home with them at the end of the day. Pop-ups last for approximately 1-2 hours at a time, and have been held in libraries, museums, university classrooms, and other non-museum locales. I started experimenting with this participatory pop-up museum model in March 2011. Since then, I have partnered with wonderful organizations and have inspired other museums to hold their own pop-ups.

    As part of my Museology graduate program, I conducted research on pop-ups. Specifically, I looked at what social interactions are occurring at pop-ups, with the idea to examine the implications of conversations. Results of the study suggest that participants at pop-ups have conversations with each other that are based on objects, through facilitation, and being in the pop-up space. Results also suggest that participants learn more about one another and meet new people. Furthermore, results suggest that participants feel a sense of community with one another after attending pop-ups. This data indicates that The Pop-Up Museum concept is a model of creating conversation between visitors for those museums that desire to do so.

    The full thesis project report is attached to this case study. I encourage you to read about how I view conversation and the in-depth interviews I conducted with pop-up participants. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions or comments.

  • Exhibit Opened: January 2012

  • Location: Seattle, WA, United States

  • Estimated Cost: Less than $5,000 (US)

  • Website(s):

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