Community Pop-Up Museum Comes to Oberlin

The Oberlin Heritage Center will host a “pop-up museum” at the First Church in Oberlin, United Church of Christ on March 10 with the theme of “Older Than I Am.” The exhibit transforms community members into curators by sourcing items from their own personal histories. Anyone interested is encouraged to display their artifacts.

Mary Anne Cunningham, assistant to the director of the Oberlin Heritage Center, explained that the pop-up museum will complement the OHC’s mission of connecting community members with history.

“We’re always looking for new ways to connect people with history,” Cunningham said. “We thought this would be a really fun way to engage people with one another and allow them to share their own histories with each other in the community.”

Though still almost a month away, the pop-up museum has already drawn significant attention from the community. At the time of publication, the Facebook event listed 58 people as interested, many of whom are students.

“I think it gives students a unique opportunity to bring something that might have cultural importance to them […] and to engage with other people who bring items in,” College sophomore Tom Decker said.

Many Oberlin students likely haven’t brought anything to campus that directly fits the theme “Older Than I Am.” Even so, they are still encouraged to visit the pop-up museum and learn more about the history of the town, as well as hear stories from Oberlin community members.

“I think it’s definitely going to bring specific kids who are interested in learning more about Oberlin,” Decker said.

The event will be co-hosted with the Oberlin African American Genealogy & History Group, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote historical research and genealogy in Oberlin’s African-American community.

“These are often objects that belonged to someone’s ancestors, so that is something that links directly to our mission,” OAAGHG President Annessa Oliver-Wyman said.

The collaboration was beneficial for everyone involved.

“Both groups are very interested in Oberlin history, so it just seemed like a natural fit,” Cunningham said. “We really want to get a lot of people involved, so it’s great to partner with others to try to expand the audience a little bit.”

In terms of what artifacts will be on display at the museum, Cunningham is expecting substantial variety. There won’t be many restrictions on what people can bring, aside from the museum’s theme.

“The only requirement is that [the individual] can carry it in and out on their own,” she said.

According to Cunningham, OHC Executive Director Liz Schultz will be bringing in a vintage typewriter that patrons will have the opportunity to try out. Most items on display, however, will be for viewing only.

The pop-up museum has encouraged some to explore and engage with their family histories in ways they otherwise may not have. One woman plans to display her grandparents’ wedding photo and was inspired to find out more about the image.

“[The event] has prompted her to do a little research and figure out exactly which church it was in,” Cunningham said. “It will prompt her to do a little family genealogy.”

The museum will be held in the Fellowship Hall at the First Church in Oberlin, U.C.C. on March 10. Doors open at 1:30 p.m., and the exhibit will be open from 2–4 p.m. Those interested in bringing an artifact to display should register in advance on the Oberlin Heritage Center’s website or by calling Bethany Hobbs at (440) 774-1700.