In 2019, with the generous support of the Arts and Humanities Impact Fund (University of Cambridge), a small team from the Fitzwilliam Egyptian Coffins project piloted a Pop-Up Museum in Wisbech (from March-June, 2019). The aim of this was to bring our cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research into ancient Egyptian coffins into a culturally underserved community, with the view to replicating this elsewhere, and with different research projects and collections. We selected Wisbech, located in the heart of the Fens (about 1 hour 20 minutes from central Cambridge by car) because it is reported to be one of the most deprived towns not only in Cambridgeshire, but the whole of the UK. According to the 2011 Census, for example, 35.1% of residents were recorded as having no formal qualifications, while 19.1% had below the national standard average levels in literacy.
But, what is a Pop-Up Museum? And how do we engage audiences using this type of platform? Well, a Pop-Up Museum is where real researchers (including Egyptologists and conservators) bring real museum objects, craft replicas, hands-on activities and digital experiences into the heart of communities who might not otherwise have access to our research. We aim to do this, however, in surprising and unexpected ways by popping-up in locations where people do not expect to have a cultural encounter. For example, in Wisbech, we popped-up in a pub, a supermarket, a shopping centre and a food bank. We have also popped-up outside the Wisbech and Fenland Museum and in the Rosmini and Oasis Community Centres.
We connect people with our research through face-to-face interaction and the lens of how things are made, bridging people's knowledge and experience of trades and recreational pastimes, such as carpentry and painting, with the skills of the ancient Egyptians from thousands of years ago.
Below you will find a list of all the venues we have popped-up in between March and June 2019, including a venue summary, photographs and reflections of our experiences there.
Later in July of the same year, with the support of a grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), we delivered our first Pop-Up Museum in Cairo. We also trained curators at the Egyptian Museum Cairo so they can develop and deliver their own. For more on this see here. Thanks to additional funding from ICOM UK – British Council, this was followed in November 2019 by a series of Pop-up Museums in Damietta, a town in the Delta that is famed as the home of the carpentry industry in Egypt, which we reported on here.
For more information about the Pop-up Museum concept and the work of the team, see Melanie Pitkin et al. “Engaging audiences in areas of low cultural provision: the concept of the ‘pop-up’ museum experience”, CIPEG Journal no. 4 (2020), 37-53 (https://doi.org/10.11588/cipeg.2020.4.83936).
26 Jun 2019
The Wheatsheaf Inn, owned by Wetherspoon’s pub, has been one of our best received Pop-Up locations. With huge thanks to Manager Martin Baldwin, we held four Pop-Ups here on March 19, 21, 26 and June 26, 2019.Read more
12 Jun 2019
On June 12, 2019 the Pop-Up Egyptian coffins project brought their research to the Wisbech Baptist Church where every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (during specified hours) The Trussell Trust run a food bank. Based on a coupon system, people in need can come into the church for basic provisions and non-perishable items. In 2018, the Wisbech Food Bank gave 3006 emergency food supplies to people in need.Read more
29 May 2019
The Oasis Community Centre, owned and run by the Wisbech Community Development Trust in the Waterlees Ward of Wisbech (the most deprived Ward in Cambridgeshire), provides support and activities for people of all age groups, abilities, interests and needs in the local area.Read more
22 May 2019
The Wisbech Market Place, managed by Wisbech Town Council, is a bustling market area with stalls selling a range of goods from fruit and vegetables, fresh meat and fast food to bric-a-brac and clothing. On three occasions throughout March, April and May, we popped-up with our Egyptian coffins research opposite Costa coffee, suprising local shoppers.Read more
21 May 2019
Opened in 1847 as one of the first purpose built museums in the UK, and still very much retaining its period charm, the Wisbech and Fenland Museum is home to a rich and diverse collection spanning local and social history, decorative and fine arts, ethnography, photography, costume and textiles, natural history, numismatics, archaeology and Egyptology. It’s located in Museum Square between the town library, St Peter and St Paul’s Parish and Wisbech Castle.Read more
24 Apr 2019
On April 24, we ‘popped-up’ at Morrisons - a major supermarket retailer in the U.K, with more than 500 stores across the country. Wisbech Morrisons lies just outside the town centre. It was made clear from some of our visitors that people in this part of town do not typically visit Wisbech town centre owing to a dislike of the town’s “anti-social behaviour and crime levels”.Read more
18 Apr 2019
The Rosmini Community Centre is a community based organisation in Wisbech which provides employment support and translation services, legal advice, community transport and a range of activities for local residents spanning basketball, table tennis, football, woodworking and day outings. Located on Queens Road, on the other side of the town to the Oasis Community Centre, it provides a particular refuge for Wisbech’s migrant communities, who predominantly comprise Polish, Latvians and Lithuanians.Read more
17 Apr 2019
Located in central Wisbech, the Horsefair Shopping Centre is a hub of activity for locals with 26 retail outlets. It is also home to Wisbech’s main bus depot.Read more