The Pop-Ups Are Here to Stay Up

Sprinkles. Pink. Cherries. Cotton Candy. Friends laughing. Intrigued, my group of friends lean closer and scrutinize the location tag of a picture that popped up on our Instagram feed: The Museum of Ice Cream. Fast-forward a few weeks later, and my friends and I are on the Museum of Ice Cream website, hoping to secure tickets to their newly opened San Francisco location. To our surprise, not only are tickets quite expensive ($38), but they had also been sold out for weeks in advance. Had this been any other museum, my friends would likely have not been so eager to get tickets. Indeed, to most teens, it seems inconceivable to spend a weekend at a museum, numbly nodding along to a tour guide explaining the details of Victorian architecture, but the rise of pop-up concepts is slowly altering what teens consider a place to hangout.

For me, the the pop-up museum represents a place for the teens of Generation Z to return to our indulgence of childhood curiosity in a trendy way. This is best demonstrated through the the experience-focused nature of these pop-up exhibits. To give an example, the Guardian notes that the Egg House, which “features giant eggs, an oversized egg carton and an egg pool with palm trees” with which viewers can interact and take pictures, acts as a “quick getaway from daily life through a fantasized theme-house.” Biubiu Xu, the founder of the Egg House, notes she believes more experienced-based museums are increasingly popular because “people have the need to immerse themselves in another refreshing and inspiring environment; the Egg House allows them to do that.” Indeed, I find current museum and store exhibits slightly monotonous. When one enters a traditional museum, he or she is merely a viewer. Individuals are not allowed to touch anything or be too loud, and thus our ability to satiate our curiosity is vastly limited. However, pop-up museums, such as the Egg House, encourage indulgence in hands-on activities, making the whole event more immersive and entertaining. Not to mention, the recreational aspect of the pop-up museum makes the museum-going experience much more collaborative, thus acting as a desirable activity for friendship-bonding.

However, for many people, the Instagrammable aspects of the museum call into question whether pop-up exhibits, such as the Museum of Pizza, can truly be called museums. The emphasis on the aesthetics of the museum, rather than the content, is troubling for some. The Guardian notes that the Museum of Pizza seems to focus on being Instagrammable, instead of telling the actual history of pizza. The informational content of pop-up museums may be lower than other traditional museums; however, this may simply signal a shift in the definition of a ‘museum.’ In this day and age, where information is readily available at our screens, perhaps the purpose of a museum is no longer to store and disseminate knowledge. Rather, the popularity of pop-up museums, especially for teens as a place to hangout, may signify a desire for more exploratory and collective experiences, rather than the solitary, passive situations that museums currently offer.