Tag: Hualcayan

When Pop-Up Museums Are the Answer

There is nothing terribly new about Pop-Up Museums.  The concept originated in the 1990s.  In a Museum 2.0 post, Nina Simon describes Pop-Up Museums as “a short-term institution existing in a temporary space; a way to catalyze conversations among diverse people, mediated by their objects.”  As just two examples, Pop-Up Museums exhibit the results of high school student archaeological excavations and the history of Apple products.

I am not interested in a dogmatic purity in the terms application, such as the conversation around what can and cannot be called a Third Place (see recent article by my colleague Natalye Tate on same).  Instead, here I consider how the Pop-Up Museum is useful for community outreach and engagement, particularly in archaeological and historical contexts.

posted before about the Memphis Archaeological and Geological Society’s (MAGS) work with collections curated at the C.H. Nash Museum.   Since that blog post, the group chose to also create traveling archeological exhibits.  MAGS intends to create these mobile thematic exhibits in collaboration with students from the University of Memphis Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program.  MAGS will use the mobile exhibits at the dozens of public events they take part in each year.  The exhibits will differ from the typical “traveling trunks” that often amount to magician’s kit with a bit of everything.  Rather the exhibits will be thematic (stone tools, ceramics, Paleoindian) or spatial (specific site) with didactic panels and cultural materials.  Ideally, these Pop-Up Museums will continue to evolve and grow based on the specific needs and opportunities for public outreach by MAGS.  The intended purpose of the exhibits is to engage the public and educate and build awareness of the archaeological resources and prehistory of their region.

I experimented with another type of Pop-Up Museum during my tenure as the Station Archaeologist at the Poverty Point Earthworks in northeast Louisiana some 10 – 15 years ago.  The idea was to create small exhibits for Louisiana parish (county) libraries based on a specific Poverty Point site excavation, artifact type, or prehistoric activity.  The Pop-Up Museum would remain in place for a three-month period.  We envisioned that multiple and different Pop-Up Museums could rotate throughout the library system of northeast Louisiana.  Unfortunately, without the support of a MAGS-type avocational group or a university with a museum studies program, the plans were not implemented beyond a few libraries.  The purpose of the exhibits was to educate and raise awareness in the community surrounding the Poverty Point site about the massive earthwork complex.

The short video clip at the top of this page is from the Pop-Up Museum created in Hualcayán, Peru at the village’s first annual heritage festival held on August 3, 2013 that I posted about last week.  The Pop-Up Museum addressed immediate strategic vision of PIARA Directors Rebecca Bria and Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza and the Hualcayán community.  As reported in last week’s blog post, a substantive part of PIARA’s work is outreach to the rural community situated around, and in some cases on top of, an archaeological record that spans 4000 years of human occupation.  As is often the case in such situations, the community’s primary relationship to the archaeological record until recently was based in an economic incentive from artifact sales to collectors.  Most often, even archaeologists relate to such communities primarily through an economic relationship by employing residents in field projects or providing funds for community development projects.  While PIARA also employs Hualcayán residents and provides material support to community projects, the Directors consider the education and empowerment of the local community as an essential part of their research design.

The Pop-Up Museum at the August 3rd Heritage Festival served multiple purposes.  First, as shown in the clip above, the excavated cultural materials were contextualized and interpreted in time and space and not as an economic incentive.  The Pop-Up Museum was also a first step toward creating a permanent museum based in the Hualcayán community.   A permanent museum is part of both the PIARA and the Hualcayán community’s vision of a multi-component strategy to develop the region’s cultural heritage, ecotourism, and museum related opportunities to directly benefit area residents.  The success of the Pop-Up Museum was demonstrated in part by the steady stream of residents visiting throughout the Heritage Festival, and into the next day as well.

The examples above show how Pop-Up Museums as temporary institutions can:

  • educate, inform, and engage communities to identify with their past through cultural heritage exhibits.
  • incorporate the input and talents of avocational and student support.
  • present cultural heritage resources in a diversity of locales beyond that of a typical museum.

How have you used Pop-Up Museums in your work? 

Co-Creation from Hualcayan to Memphis

festival

Community residents examine artifacts from this season’s excavations in the “pop-up” museum at the First Annual Cultural Festival of Hualcayán.

I have blogged before about the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) community outreach program in Peru.  This week I have the opportunity to participate and experience the program firsthand.  As well, this week PIARA Directors Rebecca Bria and Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza, and I are discussing collaborative projects that can involve PIARA, the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, and the University of Memphis Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program.  We envision that these multiple agencies can participate in the co-creation of cultural heritage opportunities with the Hualcayán village and archaeological site.  We are discussing projects that can align with the missions of all agencies involved.

Hualcayán is located at 3150 masl in the Province of Huaylas, Department of Ancash, Peru flanked by the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra Mountain ranges in the Callejón de Huaylas valley.  The village is a rural agricultural community located in the midst of archaeological sites that span the last 4000 years of human history in the region.  Although there is a small museum in the nearby city of Caraz, the region’s cultural heritage is not promoted to its potential and archaeological sites are not protected.  In terms of tourism, Caraz and Hualcayán are viewed by most visitors as brief stopovers on their way to adventure tourism and trekking opportunities to lagoons and glacial peaks in the Parque Nacional Huascarán.

As discussed in the previous blog post, PIARA’s perspective on the cultural heritage development is in line with a co-creative participatory process with the community.  In fact, one of the reasons for the close fit for potential PIARA and C.H. Nash Museum collaborative efforts is the common perspective toward cultural heritage development of the two agencies.  Both institutions operate in communities that are generally considered underserved.  In the past few years, both organizations embarked on long-term programs of community engagement and empowerment through cultural heritage development.  As well, both organizations are situated in rich environs of cultural heritage resources.

Another important similarity is that both organizations have spent the past several years laying the groundwork for collaboration with their respective communities.  At the C.H. Nash Museum, that work is summarized in a recent article.  At PIARA that collaboration operates in a very similar manner.  For example, this past Saturday, August 3, PIARA was the initiator and co-sponsor along with the Universidad Nacional Ancash – Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo and the Provincial Municipality of Huaylas of the First Annual Cultural Festival of Hualcayán.  The Festival included visits to the ongoing archaeological excavations in Hualcayán, display of excavated cultural materials, the inauguration of the community library funded and built by PIARA, regional dances, local food, and much more.

As with the recent community outreach projects at the C.H. Nash Museum, the Festival of Hualcayán could not have happened without PIARA’s previous years of community engagement.  That is, without the consistent community outreach by PIARA and engagement over the past several years, there would not have been the collaborative basis on which to build and inspire the Cultural Festival.  PIARA views the Festival as a node on a continuum of community outreach and engagement.  As at the C.H. Nash Museum, the direction of that outreach and engagement for PIARA will continue to develop as a co-creative process with the Hualcayan community.  For example, as posted previously, this summer C.H. Nash Museum intern Lyndsey Pender created the Southwest Memphis Cultural Heritage website only after discussions and collaboration with community residents.  Although the broad parameters of website development were set, the precise future content will be based in community discussions and input.  The dialogue with PIARA and the Hualcayán community continues along on a similar plane.

Which brings me to one of my favorite preaching points – community relevance.  As small institutions, both the C.H. Nash Museum and PIARA are gaining traction, growing, and now receive exponentially greater community support than in the past.  The increased support results because they approach their work in cultural heritage resource management from a perspective that prioritizes not just the co-creative process, but also is based in an approach that is relevant to the community in which they serve.

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