Skip to main content

An Intern's Experience of the Pop-up Museum

24 Jun 2019

Charlotte Thompson-Mitchell

Hello, my name is Charlotte Thompson-Mitchell and I am an intern working on the Fitzwilliam Egyptian Coffins Project. Since March I have been helping to share current research into ancient Egyptian coffins in Wisbech through a Pop-Up Museum.

About The Egyptian Coffins Project

Since 2014, the Fitzwilliam Museum has been conducting interdisciplinary research into its ancient Egyptian coffins. By combining the expertise of many specialists, including Egyptologists, conservators, a woodworking specialist, a pigment analyst and a consultant radiologist, we have been able to uncover the fascinating stories of these objects and the people who made them. Now, this research is being shared with the public through a Pop-Up Museum along with the launch of a new website

What is a Pop-Up Museum?

A Pop-Up Museum is a temporary travelling exhibition, potentially including a selection of museum objects, which ‘pops up’ in everyday locations unexpectedly. The element of surprise is key, so the event is usually promoted through word of mouth and social media on the day. A Pop-Up Museum is a great way to engage new audiences with your collection because you get to interact with people who may have never considered visiting before.

This Pop-Up Museum features real ancient Egyptian coffin fragments dating to c. 1070BC and replica ancient Egyptian carpentry tools. These objects have had their own special cases built to transfer the objects securely to our pop-up locations in Wisbech. To date, we have ‘popped up’ in a pub, a supermarket, two different community centres, an outdoor shopping centre, a public thoroughfare, a food bank and a market. Each location has a unique audience and no two days are the same. At Wetherspoons we meet a real mix of people, including families coming in for a meal, social groups and people by themselves, including several regulars. The shoppers at Morrisons tend to be people who live outside Wisbech and don’t venture into the town centre. The marketplace is a hub of activity where you find people on their lunch breaks or shopping, but in contrast people who have lost their jobs, livelihoods, and even their homes. Then there is the community centre where our Pop-Up Museum coincides with the centre providing free lunches and groceries to the homeless. We selected these locations because they are normal, everyday locations where people spend their time and where you would least expect to find Egyptian coffins! A man in Morrisons supermarket summed it up in his comment “I only came in for courgettes, and I found all of this.”

The Pop-Up Museum features hands-on activities for visitors of all ages, such as the opportunity to make and paint with your own ancient Egyptian paintbrushes and to put together the pieces of a replica dog coffin. An important factor of our Pop-Up Museum is that people can actually talk to the curators, conservators, and Egyptologists behind the research thus making it a more memorable experience for the visitor. We are also encouraging people to support and visit their local museum, as well as the Cambridge museums. We have already met with some of our pop-up visitors who have made the journey to The Fitzwilliam Museum as a result of the pop-up.

What have we learnt?

The Pop-Up Museum is a rewarding experience for everyone involved. We have found that many of the visitors who come to the Pop-Up Museum are looking for social interaction and we have many discussions with people about topics that range well beyond Egyptian coffins! People love to chat about their own experiences of museums, their holidays to Egypt and their carpentry knowledge, as well as their own personal situations. We now recognise a few regular faces around Wisbech and it’s nice that people remember their Pop-Up Museum experience and are happy to sit down for a coffee and a chat.

Created: 24 Jun 2019 Category: news media pop-up museum pop-up project wisbech museum outreach coffins ancient egypt intern museum experience professional development

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn
University of Cambridge logo The British Academy Logo Isaac Newton Trust logo GCRF Logo Leverhulme Trust logo
University of Cambridge Museums logo Designation scheme Logo Accredited Museum status logo Cambridge City Council Logo Arts Council England Logo Research England logo