Top of the pop-ups

Eleanor Mills, 05.11.2015
Pop up museums at Birmingham 2015
Museum of Immigration set to find premises

Immigration and the Syrian crisis are high up the agenda at this year’s Museums Association (MA) conference. The Syrian refugee crisis featured in MA director Sharon Heal's introduction to the first keynote speech this morning.

One of the three pop-up museums at the conference is run by the Museum of Immigration.

“We don’t have a premises yet, but we should by the end of next year,” said Andrew Steeds, project manager at the museum.

The museum aims to bring stories of immigration to the public through its programme of events and exhibitions. A display entitled Germans in Britain was recently on display at the London School of Economics and will soon be mounted at Homerton Hospital, London, from 19 November, for a month.

“We’re frantically fundraising to be able to afford a physical premises,” says Steeds.

The pop up stand displays two aspects of recent displays that the museum have shown: 100 images of migration and a cabinet of keepsakes that shows examples of objects migrants have found comforting during their move.

Steed said: “When we have a premises we aim to put on exhibitions there, but that will be in the long-term future. We also aim to have a lorry that can tour the UK with pop-up exhibitions and events.”

Birmingham Qur'an

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Another of the pop-up museums is run by the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham, a library that specialises in ancient and modern religious texts from the three main religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

Josefine Frank, curator at the Cadbury Research Library said: “The copy of the Qur’an that we own is one of the oldest in the world. We’ve recently done new research into it and carbon dated it accurately, and we’ve proven that it’s from the 7th century just after the prophet Mohammed died.”

Frank’s pop-up stand displays a facsimile version of the Birmingham Qur’an and gives visitors the opportunity to try out calligraphy.

“Birmingham is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and Edward Cadbury who set up the library in the 1920s had a vision to make the city as diverse as it is today. The Cadbury Research Library holds a world class collection of religious texts, so the new research into the Birmingham Qur’an is important for us.

“It made the front cover of the New York Times and when the original parchment went on show recently we got the library’s record number of 8,500 visitors through the door,” said Frank.

Recreating the Staffordshire Hoard

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The School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University is making exact facsimiles of objects from the Staffordshire Hoard to further their research into it.

The Staffordshire Hoard was unearthed in 2009 and its priceless treasures are currently on display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, but it remains a mystery what many of the objects within it were used for.

To help further research into the making and use of some of these objects, the School of Jewellery has launched a fundraising scheme to make exact replicas of up to 16 items.

So far, it has made facsimile versions of three, which are all on show at their pop up stand.

Pieta Greaves, the conservation coordinator for the Hoard at Birmingham Museums Trust, said, “We 3D scan an object from the hoard, then use computer programmes to map it, and then use a 3D printer to print it in resin.”

Each object is then given a rubber mould and a cast is made from molten metal being poured into the mould.

Samantha Chilton, a jeweller and silversmith at the School of Jewellery, said, “We then clean and file the cast so that it’s as close as physically possible to the original. I check every blemish is true to the original, and then cover the facsimile with gold leaf, to replicate the original's gold, then add stones like garnet, and finish by adding soil in exactly the same places as the original.”

The facsimile versions of the Staffordshire Hoard help visitors engage with the hoard itself because they can hold the objects, but it will also mean that some items can tour to be on show elsewhere.

Of the three objects on display at the pop up stand only one’s use is identifiable, as a pendant in the shape of a cross, but the other’s uses are still a mystery.

Greaves believes that making such exact facsimiles will increase outreach and further help the search for what these objects might have been used for.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is currently fundraising to create another facsimile of a treasure from the hoard.

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