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Introducing the Pop Up Museum to Santa Cruz County

Posted by on September 20, 2012

We’ve all got fascinating things, but not everyone gets to show them off in a museum. Thanks to the Pop Up Museum, that’s all about to change…

The Pop Up Museum is a traveling museum created by the people who show up to participate. Popping up in unorthodox spaces, like libraries or Laundromats, Pop Up Museums focus on bringing people together and creating conversational spaces through stories, art, and objects.

So, how does it work? Here’s a description from Michelle Delcarlo, the woman who started the Pop Up Museum concept in Washington:

First, a theme is chosen. For example, the pilot test’s theme was “Handmade.” From this theme, you are invited to bring something to share that is meaningful to you, kind of like show and tell.

Next, when you arrive, you can write a label to give others an idea of why your object is meaningful to you. Using the “Handmade” example, you could bring in a picture you drew or a quilt your grandma made you. At the end of the day, everyone takes their items home with them. It’s that simple!

The museum exists for a few hours on one day, and its location will travel in order to include an array of communities.

In the spring of 2012, Michelle came to the MAH to do a Pop Up Museum with us during the Love exhibition. We were so impressed by the experience and its ability to encourage meaningful conversations that we decided to try to make it a bigger project. With the support of the James Irvine Foundation, we are now starting a two-year project to spread Pop Up Museums throughout Santa Cruz County in partnership with community organizations, businesses, and schools.

As part of that same grant, we’re working on a Pop Up Museum Organizer’s Kit, so that you can design your own Pop Ups. We feel strongly that everyone should have the opportunity to share their stories and objects with each other. We will also be developing more ways to share our own collections and let you share yours at the MAH, as we are doing with the current Memory Jar installation in the Lezin Gallery. As we learn from this project, we’ll share our reflections here on the blog and eventually on a dedicated Pop Up Museum website. Nora Grant, longtime intern and collaborator, will be joining our team part-time to coordinate the Pop Up Museums. If you are interested in partnering with us at your business, organization, or a favorite public place to create a Pop Up Museum, please contact Nora at

The first Pop Up Museum will be happening on October 5 for First Friday from 5-7 pm on the 2nd floor lobby at the MAH in partnership with the Resource Center for Nonviolence. The theme will be “Objects of Conflict.” An object of conflict could be something as common as a remote control or as powerful as military Dog Tags. So come and bring an object down that evening, and stay tuned as we develop this project and the museums begin to pop!

  • Honey

    I L O V E D the Pop-UP Tea Service by Grace and Leo Sedeen! SUCH A NICE SURPRISE!