By Dagmar Buck
A museum in a shopping centre or on the moon kind of seems the same thing – both are places where you would not expect a museum. So, I was quite surprised when I first heard about the idea but soon became very fond of it once I had started volunteering at the pop-up museum of the National Maritime Museum in Lewisham Shopping Centre. Often in life it is good to look at things the other way around – or simply from a different perspective. Why should people always visit a museum and why can’t a museum come to the people? Well, sometimes it does as well. The pop-up museum was located in a previous phone shop in Lewisham shopping centre and many people walked in with big eyes, quite surprised of what they saw. Often the question “How long have you been here?” followed by a puzzled look when they admitted that they come to the shopping centre often and had not noticed the pop-up museum before. But as most of us are very busy, we walk into places we know, not really taking in the environment expecting it the same as it always was: one shop or coffee place next to the other. But sometimes it’s good to look up and find a nice surprise.
The pop-up was part of the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich) and as such, it presented two paintings that were commissioned after the first Cook trip. Consequently, the exhibition evolved mainly around exploring the world and in particular the Pacific. The handling objects included all kinds of interesting and fascinating objects like a Tahitian chief’s collar or a stick chart. While it was fun to share information on the objects with people, it was absolutely fantastic to listen to their stories! These were ranging from family stories related to their roots in Jamaica, Kenia, Australia and many other places to recipes for delicious breadfruit meals. My initial concerns of not knowing enough about the objects completely dissolved and instead it was me who learned a lot from the many visitors of diverse backgrounds who came to the pop-up museum in Lewisham Shopping Centre! Their stories sparked my interest and I have looked up a number of historical events and places since then. Thank you to all the wonderful people from Lewisham who came and shared their stories!