Students passing by Morrell Lounge in Smith Union last Wednesday night had the opportunity to strike up conversations with strangers about objects as foreign as a blowgun from the Amazon and astragalus plants from Argentina and as familiar as a Batman mask.

Starting last November, Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and the Bowdoin College Museum of Art have collaborated to create an annual series of Pop-Up Museums at Bowdoin. Susan Kaplan, director of the Arctic Museum, defines the event as a place “where people bring things that they collect and have wonderful stories about” to display and share with others.

Kaplan called the event “a good icebreaker” for students and the Brunswick community.
This year’s theme was “Wish You Were Here!” Students, faculty and community members were encouraged to bring items that they found or bought on their travels around the world, or even right around the corner.
Kermit Smyth, a mineral collector and Brunswick local, was on his way to collect minerals one day when he passed by a yard sale. He saw two vases and thought they looked interesting. After extensive research on one vase, he learned that it had an estimated value of $300.  
Smyth decided to submit the vase to the Pop-Up Museum, saying that it had an “unusual design, [was] difficult to identify, [was] difficult to put an age on and [had] a good story to tell.”

 Peter Nardozzi, another Brunswick resident, wanted to tell a story as well as teach people new information with his object. He brought a blowgun used to paralyze and kill monkeys with a drug made from plants found in the Amazon. The drug used in the gun is the same one used in hospitals right before a patient is intubated.

Nardozzi said that last year he brought a Red Sox program from the 1970s and has much more “strange stuff” in his house for next year.   

Another submission came from Brunswick local Otto Emersleben. He took a photo of a man in a tearoom in Baba Bukala, Pakistan in 1977. When he came home from his trip he realized that he had the exact same teapot and cup the man in the photo was holding. Emersleben had traveled to Baba Bukala in 1970 and had bought it at that time. He thought the coincidence was a good story.

At the first Pop-Up Museum last year, Emersleben brought a piece of the Berlin Wall from a trip to Berlin in early 1990 along with an old newspaper dated November 10, 1989, featuring stories about the collapse of the wall.

 Last year’s Pop-Up Museum was located in the Arctic Museum in Hubbard Hall, but took place in Smith Union this year due to the large number of people expected to attend.
Kaplan, Smyth and Emersleben  said they were all a bit disappointed by this year’s turnout, which they thought was lower than last year’s. 

In 2013, at least 100 people attended the event, while this year there have been far fewer attendees and fewer people who brought items.

Even though the turnout lessened this year, Kaplan is content with the exhibit and the overall experience of the Pop-Up Museum. 

“The point is people have come and people are talking to each other,” she said. She called the event an opportunity “for people to get to know each other and share stories.”

Kaplan also described the show as “a giant adult show-and-tell [where people can share] things that they care a lot about.”

Last year’s theme was “Your Favorite Things.” Some of Kaplan’s favorite items were a Cuneiform tablet someone inherited from her great grandmother and Smyth’s collection of animal beer caps. 

Kaplan said the long-term goal is to continue to have a Pop-Up Museum every year with a different theme. She hopes to put together a Pop-Up Museum where students can display items they have in their dorm rooms, because according to Kaplan, anyone can contribute to a successful pop-up exhibition.