Inside South Africa’s Pop-up Museum Trend

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More than ever, people are after unique cultural experiences. Whether it’s to explore new concepts, hang out with friends, or just capture some awesome picture to post on their Instagram feed. Little wonder pop-up museums are the hottest trend sweeping South Africa.

Pop-up museums aren’t confined by the old rules and old ways of doing things. Nor do they need to be bland and boring – like too many so-called traditional museums. In fact, pop-up museums can be about whatever you want. It could feature contemporary artists or touring museum collections. It can be a travelling display heading to several cities or a temporary exhibition in just one location.

It can be anything, and everything – the possibilities are endless.

In South Africa, pop-up museums are rapidly capturing engaging new audiences. It’s a chance to explore, engage, and discover. Instanation and Dreambox are two of the biggest names currently exploding in popularity – and redefining the museum experience.

Here’s how.

What is a pop-up museum?

A pop-up museum is any temporary exhibit created to engage the public outside the typical confines of a permanent structure. It’s this flexibility many have found so exciting. But it’s also the fleeting nature that appeals to modern-day tastes. Everyone’s after that little slice of something exclusive, exceptional, ephemeral.

What better way to capture that feeling than a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it show? The one where you “just hard to be there” to get it.

Even better, it gets traditional museums out of their comfort zones. It forces them to cater to a wider audience and expand their horizons.

Take the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Back in 2013, they devised the world’s first travelling museum. Using a lightweight 650-metre structure designed by architect Patrick Bouchain, they headed out on the road exposing new audiences to their exciting exhibitions. It was like nothing anybody had seen before.

But it need not just be art. The Jewish Museum in Frankfurt, for example, created a pop-up boat. Inside, people could meet and discuss Jewish perspectives on a diverse array of contemporary issues.

What would you like to see in a pop-up museum? How can you take the concept to the next level?

What pop-up museums are there in South Africa?

Instanation, for instance, wowed audiences in Rosebank, Johannesburg, with over 30 artistic installations. It was a hub for creativity and curiosity. Or, as they put it, a “social media playground … where you, friends and family can have fun capturing amazing imagery.”

Visitors had 60 minutes to explore the space. And there were changing cabins and beauty stations for visitors to achieve their perfect look. It’s all about taking the ultimate snap for your social media – while having fun with your friends and family.

Take a look at their installations – and the colourful creations audiences could explore. It just shows how out-of-the-box pop-up museums can be. This definitely isn’t your standard museum experience.

Dreambox, on the other hand, is the first interactive photo fun experience anywhere in South Africa. They’re actually permanently based in Johannesburg – but their installations are constantly evolving. With 12 different pop-up boxes, you can get lost in the dream-like realities. It’s a quirky and interactive environment to discover for all ages.

Plus, they’re also available to do corporate and private events. So, if you want a pop-up museum for your event, you’ll have the ultimate party piece for the Instagram generation.

Dreambox’s slogan says it all: “Capture. Create. Post. Be Happy!”

How do you start a pop-up museum?

Creating a pop-up museum starts with an idea. What is your pop-up museum about? Who do you want to engage? Where do you want to go?

Answering these questions will help determine what kind of pop-up museum you’ll want. Suppose you wanted to showcase a certain culture. How are you going to do this? Will you showcase artwork? Cultural items? Invite guest speakers?

You’ll also want to consider the pop-up museum’s narrative. Simply showcasing a collection of items doesn’t make it a museum. Rather, it’s the story you tell that engages, excites, and explains. This is what separates the pop-up museums that snowball into a cultural phenomenon and those that go out in a whimper.

The narrative is also two-sided. It’s not just what you’re saying; it’s who you’re saying it to.

That’s where time and location come in. Hosting a pop-up museum at 10 am on a Wednesday morning will attract a very different crowd of people than being in the heart of a city centre on a Saturday afternoon. You’ll need to think about the weather, who manages the site, parking, food and music, as well as the actual structure your museum will be held inside.

How much does it cost to start a pop-up museum?

It all depends on your vision. You can create a pop-up museum on a shoestring budget. Draft in friends and family passionate about your theme. Or invest thousands in a whirlwind experience visitors will never forget.

It’s up to you!

After all, some of Instanation’s pop-up exhibits are little more rubber ducks and colourful bathtubs. It’s more about creativity than cost. Who doesn’t want to experience the weird and the wonderful? Don’t they make the best pictures? Think imaginative light displays and colourful collages.

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