The Pop Up Museum (#EdCampCobb 3.14.15)

Pop-Up-Museum example

Meme Museum

In my last post, I shared my experience at edCamp Cobb, which, admittedly, was some time ago. Part 1 explained how to use Symbaloo, a bookmarking tool, to create a Choose Your Own Adventure story. For part 2, I’m going to attack the Pop-up Museum presented by Deborah Aughey.

What is a Pop-up Museum, you ask? What is an example?

How can I facilitate it in my class? Why should I?

First, a Pop-up Museum is more of an event than a place. It demands participation. It causes conversations. It’s flexible and differentiated. It’s a collection of things that represent ideas. And isn’t that just what art is? A physical representation of an idea?

Speaking of art, and of art history, you might say that the Pop Up Museum springs from the Happenings in the 1960s, but instead of performance-based art, this modern update relies on participants bringing objects to exhibit and share. Nina Simon, who designs and researches participatory museum experiences, is the Executive Director at The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center and seems to be the Pop Up Museum progenitor. The museum’s website offers this description:

A Pop Up Museum is a temporary exhibit created by the people who show up to participate. It works by choosing a theme and venue and then inviting people to bring an object on-topic to share, like a community show-and-tell. Each participant writes a label for his or her object and puts it on display. A Pop Up Museum usually lasts for a few hours on one day, and focuses on bringing people together in conversation through stories, art, and objects. There are many ways to have a Pop Up Museum. And anyone can have one.

Pop-Up-Museum kit

Organizers Kit from The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center

They have their own website, and a video to introduce the concept: The site also offers an organizer’s kit for the interested teacher looking for more ideas, guides, and templates.

What makes the Pop Up Museum appealing for teachers is its design embodies best teaching practices. The experience is event-based, and students practice their presentation skills and active listening skills. The goal is promoting conversation. The design is simple. The format focuses on intimate experiences. In addition, it’s no mess: participants bring the materials, and then they take them away. For the teacher, this means no piles of posters, shoe boxes (if people even still use them), or mobiles to grade after school.

At edCamp Cobb, I experienced my first Pop Up Museum: The Meme Museum. Our objective: a meme that describes how we feel about edCamp Cobb. Simple. First, we spent five to ten minutes creating our memes on laptops, tablets, or phones. Then, after time, we grouped ourselves into themes. Those whose memes involved  Twitter were in one group, and those whose memes highlighted Pi Day were in another group.

Sorting and grouping took no more than five minutes, and soon we were ready to experience the event as museum goers. We left our objects displayed on the tables and lined up outside.

The point is to replicate the museum going experience. Depending on the theme or scope of the activity, the teacher can have students frame their objects/work inside empty picture frames. Alternatively, the classroom parent (if those are even still around) can bring in sparkling grape juice and cheese and crackers. Everyone sips with their pinkies extended, etc. Such an event might work well after school, where students from all class periods can share their work in a larger space.

Pop-Up-Museum example 2

A brief whole-class walk-through with a one minute presentation by each group followed by small group discussions.

At edCamp Cobb, the display and discussion process was a little confusing, perhaps because the sharing was the last few minutes of the session. Despite what we say as educators, despite what we all firmly tell our students during the school day, as soon as you have a group of teachers together, you will have many not following directions, talking over instructions, and tweeting and texting. Sad, but true?

To make the sharing and dialogue work with students, consider first the purpose of your particular Pop Up Museum. Do you want to facilitate dialogues between students? Do you want students to present their work? Is it an activating strategy to spur students’ curiosity in subjects? Or is it a summarizing activity? Ultimately, you know your class best and what would realistically work. A brief whole-class walk-through with a one minute presentation by each group followed by small group discussions is a good procedure the first time you try it.

For more on the edCamp Cobb Meme Museum experience see the presentation here:

Pop-Up-Museum presentation

Click to view the edCamp Cobb presentation.

But this seems oddly low-tech and there’s something ironic in having a digital artifact become a museum display. True. And yes. But we’ve been seeing artists incorporate digital media into their work for years.

The Digital Pop Up Museum

Being an online educator, my first question was how to create a pop up museum online? Literally there will be no mess, but the material—unlike the classroom—will remain until deletion. But how could you facilitate it online and what would the display look like?

Web Tools

A variety of online tools can create a museum, and students can either collaborate using email, text, or discussion boards to sort their objects depending on the project.

Emaze offers a free museum template, and there’s an example at the end of this post. Emaze allows users to import images, embed video and other media on to its walls. Presentation mode transitions room to room, wall to wall. Emaze is very visual, less text dependent, but the website tends to drag and seems a little buggy.

thinkport whole

Create Your Own Museum from Thinkport

Thinkport’s “Create Your Own Museum” is less visual but has a charming concept. Begin with “Make a New Museum,” and then choose one of a few layouts. You can add images by clicking on the individual boxes, but you are unable to upload your own pictures, which is Thinkport’s Achilles’ Heel. In 2015, every site should allow users to upload, if not “drag and drop,” pictures. The images offered through image search are dated to say the least, and the limited selection hampers creativity and expression. If students need to share their own work, this site will not work. One good feature, however, is the sample teacher lessons available.

Finally, the last tool Museum Box me of the Renaissance fad of maintaining a “cabinet of curiosities“:

Cabinets of curiosity’s (also known as Kunstkabinett, Kunstkammer, Wunderkammer, Cabinets of Wonder, and wonder-rooms) were encyclopedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were, in Renaissance Europe, yet to be defined. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings), and antiquities.

Museum Box whole

Museum Box: layout, problems with search, and student example.

While I appreciate the site’s background and history on museum boxes, which are slightly different from Kunstkabinetts, the trial version doesn’t come with many options. You can only use images from its own image bank, which is hit or miss.

There are plenty of student examples, however, so some schools and teachers are finding it useful. The most recent entry is from April 1, 2015 from “shane=:]” You might want to share this student example with students to illustrate the importance of keeping personal information private when using any online tool. Here’s what comes up when you click “shane=:]” Already we know his name, his school district, and what he looks like. Furthermore, his box shares quite a bit of personal information, along with a few typos.

Web Tools Hacks

The best way to create a Pop Up museum on the web is to use either a bookmarking site, like Pinterest or Symbaloo, or Even though my last post addressed Symbaloo, I’d probably use Pinterest to publish digital Pop Up Museums. Both organize content visually, but the thumbnail images on Pinterest best replicate the concept of exhibiting an artifact. Multiple students could share an account and contribute to an individual board, or the teacher could set up a class Pinterest account. This way, the teacher could vet content before being published.

Using Thinglink offers students a little more creative freedom, and this tool would actually allow students to replicate the appearance and design of Thinkport’s “Create Your Own Museum” tool or “The Museum Box.” Finding a image that matches your mental picture through a basic Creative Commons search takes a while and offers limited results. Students should probably design their own, but you could also draw a few templates. Below are two templates I made by drawing shapes in Power Point. It’s pretty old school, but whatever gets the job done.

museum template 1

Click the template to view an example.


museum template 2

Click the template for an example.

An activity by any other name

Would not be as effective.

Yes, it is common practice for students to create work individually, group themselves, and share and discuss their own work. Sometimes students must group themselves based on content or theme; in other words, categorize their work. Most of the time, the teacher creates the groups for students by assigning colors, shapes, words, teams, numbers, letters, et cetera. Sometimes the teacher differentiates groups, sometimes not. So why do we need yet another process for grouping and sharing work?

The word “museum” is the cornerstone

It’s powerful, the word museum. Automatically, it elevates the mind and imagination. You are transported to a place prestige, quietude, and reverence. The artifacts are preserved masterpieces: either evidence of artistry or of antiquity. Portraits, pitchers, and pandas: all are important.

The exhibits are not thrown together, but curated. Each piece is selected. Chosen. Special.

A museum has one of two main purposes: to assemble and preserve a permanent collection or to facilitate interactions with the viewers. Pop Up Museums focus on the event and the discussion, and curation is less dogmatic and more subjective. The participants must create their own taxonomy. And this is the key.

The Pop Up Museum pushes students beyond creation and into analytical and reflective thinking.

Because it’s hard to design a museum.

Consider the following (and last example):


Here I built a presentation using emaze because I believe in offering examples and testing my suggestions. First, for my content, I reflected on an earlier #BFC530 Twitter Chat. This meant searching for the videos and finding my favorites. Second, I needed to sort them by theme. I ignored time stamps and users names and focused on the content. What was each video’s message? What did that video offer teachers? Third, I tried to build a loose narrative structure to connect each “room.” That made me consider flow. What was a logical order I could impose on the content to help the viewer understand not just what each video meant but how could I use order to reveal what each video meant to me. Any collection says equally as much about the curator as the individual pieces. To curate is to create. Now so more than ever with the vast Internet. We are all creators. We are all curators. We express ourselves by what we share and our responses. We all create identities through these collections.

So, who are your students?

Who is your class?

Are they creators of content? Curators of composition?

Pop Up.

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One Response to The Pop Up Museum (#EdCampCobb 3.14.15)

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