It’s not everyday one finds a program for a 1970 Red Sox game, a record of sheep sacrifices from 1900 B.C. and an armadillo sewing basket sitting side-by-side. But attendees of Tuesday night’s Pop-Up Museum were privy to just that.
A Pop-Up Museum is essentially a temporary exhibit created by whoever shows up to participate. People arrive with an object in hand and put it on display to share with the public.
The Pop-Up Museum, held in Hubbard Hall, was an idea formulated by Susan Kaplan, professor of sociology and anthropology and director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center. Inspired by her “Who Owns The Past” course, Kaplan decided to take a stab at creating Bowdoin’s first Pop-Up Museum.
“All objects have a story,” explained Kaplan. “Quite often, [museum pieces] are objects that were quite ordinary when they were made and then because of their history, they become extraordinary. Objects have life histories.”
Tuesday’s turnout proved that the Bowdoin and Brunswick communities are a welcome audience to these eclectic objects. With more than 80 patrons and nearly 100 objects displayed across nine tables, the scene in Hubbard Hall was bustling. Dining Services catered the event with foods that contained the word ‘pop,’ like popcorn, cake-pops and Pop Rocks.
While some of the people who brought objects to the showing chose to leave them the table with a label, other folks stayed close to their items—whether they were soap stone carvings, pony figurines or vintage purses—with hopes of sharing the object’s story with others.
The pieces on display ranged from personal creations to preserved entities. Norm Rosenbaum of Brunswick stood close by his object, a sculpture he calls Polar Mom that he carved in New Mexico in 1994. The item holds significance for him because he was once told that a “bear is your totem, your guiding figure.”
Peter Nardozzi, also of Brunswick, displayed an autographed program of a 1970 Red Sox game he attended.
“I paid $3.75 for a ticket...which I thought was a little high,” Nardozzi said.
Everyone at the museum was eager to share the story behind whatever they had brought to the table.
Nancy Desjardins of Brunswick brought an armadillo sewing basket that belonged to her mother.
“She did customized sewing for a certain clientele,” explained Desjardins. “Her clientele involved Bowdoin professors’ wives. It was all customized sewing.”
“A boy gave her [the armadillo sewing basket] as a gift on their first date,” she added. “She was afraid of him because of his piercing eyes and didn’t go on a second date...but she got the basket.”
Harriet Lindemann and Judith Long of Brunswick explained that they had no expectations for the Pop-Up Museum, but were pleasantly surprised by the amount of “odd” objects displayed, and the wild stories behind them.
“It is such a clever idea,” noted Lindemann. “I think it really struck a chord.”
Cynthia Shelmerdine of Brunswick stood by what Lindemann and Long named the most interesting item at the museum: a cuneiform tablet from 1900 B.C. that depicted sheep sacrifices.
“My grandmother found it amongst [my grandfather’s] things and she called me and she said ‘I don’t know what this is but it’s old and you like old things, so why don’t you have it,’” explained Shelmerdine. “I was a freshman in college and I went on to become a Classics professor. [We’ve] conserved this [tablet] and made it safe, stabilized it, and published it, and that’s why I know what it says.”
The Pop-Up Museum gives viewers the ability to come in close contact with items that might normally be put behind glass, Shelmerdine explained.
“I haven’t given this to a museum yet, though eventually it will end up there,” said Shelmerdine.
“I like to be able to hand it to students and say, here. This is from 1900 B.C. This is real.”
Kermit Smyth of Brunswick brought with him three displays of animal bottle caps from his collection of approximately 2,000-2,500 caps.
“My daughter and I started collecting them 30 years ago,” Smyth explained. “The animals are our favorite subset.
Smyth thought the Pop-Up Museum was a huge success and expects increased attendance.
“I think if [Kaplan] does it again next year she’ll have 500 people in here and we won’t be able to walk around. It’s great fun,” Smyth said.
Alongside items brought by Brunswick residents were trinkets belonging to Bowdoin students, and throughout the room students struck up conversations with folks from around town, uncovering the mysteries that lay behind objects as simple as a solitary marble.
“People collect the most amazing things,” Kaplan said.