Build your own Pop-up Museum!

National Museum Wales: “Coal not Dole” pop-up museum

When I first came across the term “pop-up museum” at the annual Museums Association Conference I was eager to participate in a fun, hands on exercise: working in teams to create a mini museum for unusual spaces.

Firstly however, I had to ask… “what actually is a pop-up museum??”

After a great deal of debate and brainstorming, I have summarised what I consider to be the vital components of a pop-up museum. With these guidelines, you too can eventually create your own.

1. A pop-up museum is a temporary museum. Pop-up museums must, eventually, pop down. With a short amount of time to set up, display, and dismantle, they must be easy to put together and “create”. They must also draw attention quickly, to ensure maximum visitors in a short period.

Although time could be a disadvantage, it can also be used to celebrate a particular event or occasion.

2. Context is important. If you have a pop-up museum in a school, you might want to theme it around childhood. If it is in a local village, perhaps community issues or local industry.

3. Do pop-up museums move? Can pop-up museums go on tour? While it was agreed that pop-up museums can move around the local area, it was felt that meaning is lost if taken out of context.

Below is a challenge to create a pop-up museum – using instructions from the MA conference session, and our own guidelines. These of course are not set in stone – feel free to make changes and see what works for you.

With a £1000 budget, create a pop-up museum based around an object or theme.

Think about: audience, marketing, what and how you will exhibit, what people will do at the museum and how they will relate to it.

Why a pop-up? Is it to draw attention to your institution or highlight something unseen? Is it to encourage debate?

Conference delegate and ITP team observations:


A low budget means strict priorities – mobility and digital equipment could be very important here.

Using ‘valuable’ objects could take up a great deal of the budget – with insurance, conservation and so on.

Sometimes the value of the object is in emotional connections. Perhaps visitors could bring their own objects to add to the display, and tell their own stories.


Another challenge is the lack of a physical museum space – how to get the best out of  your museum with limited room. Whereas the ITP Room 3 Project was a proposal for a much bigger space but set up on a table top, for a pop-up museum sometimes a table IS the space itself.

Virtual space is a great solution – with photo galleries, videos and sound to help the visitor experience, you can also increase the space and number of ‘objects’ on show.

We hope that this will get your creative energies going, and we look forward to hearing from you if you decide to create your own!

Our thanks to the National Museum Wales for the session, and their invaluable help.

Credit: Museums Association

Credit: Museums Association