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Building a Home with Pop Up Museums

Posted by on June 3, 2013

Last week the Pop Up Museum traveled to Berkeley, CA for a pop up museum on “Building a Home” with the Youth Training Project (YTP)

The YTP, which is a project of the California Youth Connection, “empowers transition-age foster youth, who are experts in navigating the foster care system, to develop and deliver best-practice training for professionals who support transition-age youth.” The program works in an ingeniously cyclical fashion, allowing youth to train professionals on how to support youth.  The transition age foster youth are often between the ages of 18 and 22.

Ruby, a foster care youth survivor and recent graduate from the San Francisco Academy of Arts, shares her stories of building a home.

As their mission states,  “We inspire young people to transform the systems of care that affect their lives, and we affirm and reignite the compassion and passion of youth-serving professionals.”

The YTP recently received funding to support a traveling museum, which they call The Museum of Lost Childhoods. Displaying personal objects donated from former foster care youth, the exhibit illustrates human strength and compassion through objects often unseen, and stories often untold.

The objects are alarmingly poignant: a makeshift sanitary napkin made from toilet paper and staples tells the story of a woman who couldn’t afford tampons. Used condoms reveal the realities of prostitution amongst some foster youth. Other objects include handcuffs, monopoly money, and hospital gowns, each piece representing true stories of struggle with undeniable tactility.

But the Museum of Lost Childhoods is not only about the past. It looks forward, and now has a second component, The Museum of Youth Empowerment. The Museum of Youth Empowerment exhibits objects from youths’ successes, such as college graduation certificates, framed photos of loved ones, letters, and other reinvigorating objects. Displayed side by side on folding tables, the exhibits are emotive, intimate, and as a former youth said, “so real.”

a woman wrote about cards mailed to an address "mean you are someone"

a woman wrote about how cards mailed to an address “mean you are someone”

But YTP realized something was missing: the transition from the youths’ “lost childhoods” to a self-supported adulthood. This is where the Pop Up Museum came in. Something between a typical Pop Up Museum and a Pop Up Museum workshop, this pop up on “Building a Home” explored ways the Youth Training Project could exhibit this transitional stage.

Members from the YTP brought objects illustrating the ways in which they build homes, opening up that word “home” to different perspectives.  The Pop Up Museum brought objects from MAH’s collection. Check the objects from the training pop up museum workshop here.

The Pop Up Museum then fed into a larger conversation about the ways in which the YTP can share stories and inspire positive action. It was a remarkable learning experience for everyone involved and we are excited to see how the Museum of Lost Childhoods will continue to inspire and empower those who listen.

  • Marjorie Schwarzer

    Holding onto and letting go of objects can be healing and powerful. As someone who is not very attached to material possessions, this project has helped me see the ways that simple objects (like a carrot peeler) help to define us as individuals and frame our identity. And how acts of generosity really do make a difference, as in this local project: http://cake4kids.org/Home.html

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