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.
Since we first conceived the idea of the Pop-Up project in mid-2018, we have collaborated and consulted with staff and volunteers at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum. This has mainly been in regard to identifying venues for our Pop-Up in Wisbech, developing a small display at the Museum of some 21st Dynasty yellow coffin fragments in their collection, which directly relates to our research and identifying ways in which we can help grow visitation to the Museum. We also provide consultative support and technical assistance with aspects of their Egyptology collection.
Thus, on 21st May 2019, we trialled our Egyptian Coffins Pop-Up outside the Wisbech and Fenland Museum with the aim of capturing passers-by, as well as general visitors, school and other community groups on excursion to the Museum. From personal experience, we have also witnessed pockets of nuisance behaviour in the thouroughfare and neighbouring church yard, so were keen to see what effect our Pop-Up would have in a) reducing this type of behaviour and b) encouraging cultural and social interaction with us. This particular aspect of our outreach work forms part of a larger study we are undertaking into social impact (based on a questionnairre and observation studies) and will be presented here in the coming months.
In summary, however, we had meaningful engagements (which we classify as being more than 3 minutes) with about 50 people between 11am and 3pm (the core hours for our Pop-Up). We also made an impression (an engagement of less than 3 minutes, which includes glances by passer-bys) with a further estimated 40 people. A small percentage of this audience were prompted to visit the Museum immediately after our encounter, while most said they would return at a later date.
Below is a selection of images from our Pop-Up outside the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, and a map highlighting the location of the Wisbech and Fenland Museum. Particular highlights included one gentleman aged 65 + who spent 45 minutes with the Pop-Up and then returned for a further 6 minutes with his wife and mother-in-law. We also had two large groups of young adults with learning difficulties who engaged with the Pop-Up for approximately 20 minutes following an excursion to the Museum.