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Danny Wallace: I have seen the museum of the future, and it makes no sense


My wife has booked two tickets for a pop-up museum.

“What’s a pop-up museum?” I ask.

“It’s just a museum,” she says, “that pops up.”

Like a hotdog stand. Or a shoe shop.

But a museum? The fact that it’s called a ‘pop-up museum’ makes me doubt its real importance as a museum. You wouldn’t get the Pop-up Museum of Slavery, or the Pop-up Museum of War. It’s like having a pop-up government, or pop-up laws. ‘Pop-up’ does not say eternal cultural significance.

But perhaps I am wrong. It’s 2017 after all. What treasured artefacts might a pop-up museum bring the world? Maybe it’s just filled with pop-up books. I’d pay good money to see a pop-up pop-up museum pop up.

So along we go, and sure enough, up a museum has popped.

A man in sunglasses gives us a pep talk as we stand outside, ready to enter.

“Please don’t touch anything,” he says.

And then he lets us in, and I see the museum for the first time.

It is very unusual, and dedicated entirely to dairy products.

“Why has this happened?” I wonder, as I wander. “Who decided there should be a pop-up museum dedicated to dairy products?”

None of the exhibits have explanations. There are no plaques. In one of the rooms is just a load of plants. In another is a giant ice cream. There are pink walls. Yellow walls. Green walls. Someone is handing out cookie dough, and someone else jumps up and down to loud music and throws gummy bears at you. I am being 100 per cent accurate here.

“This is horrific,” I think. “This is not a museum! This is just… a place!”

A lady nudges me out of the way so she can sit on a swing. Someone else jostles past because he wants to pick up a pink frying pan. Both get their phones out and take selfies.

I walk on, and have to pause while a lady takes a picture of herself next to a Perspex rainbow. Then I stop again because two lads are staring at themselves in a big purple mirror.

I start to wonder if I’m on drugs.

I don’t think I’m in a museum at all. I think I’m in some kind of Instagram alchemy laboratory. Everyone around me is taking photos of themselves and the prayer is clear: bless me with Instagram gold. Some are taking photos of themselves and pretending not to, smiling like they’ve unwittingly captured themselves in a private moment at a pop-up museum. Slowly it dawns on me that I have driven to a place not designed to be a destination but designed simply to serve as a backdrop.

This is the most 2017 museum of 2017. We’ve hit peak peak. Forget the teatoxes and kimchi buns of 2016. They belong in a museum! But not a pop-up one, grandad. In 2017, museums make no sense and are gone in a week and that’s the future.

I need to get out. I cannot be in a pop-up dairy museum. There are no pamphlets! Nothing’s behind glass! The gift shop is probably a QR code! The toilets are probably just hashtags!

My eyes dart nervously around for the exit signs. But what if the exit signs are ironic? Plus, all I can see is little gummy bears stuck on the walls and the disembodied head of a statue on its side with a black ice-cream cone on top of it.

Why is that there? And are gummy bears dairy?

Is this art? Am I? This is a bright orange nightmare, I think, as I spin around, trapped in my modern prison. I force my way through the crowd, swimming past elbows to make it to the next room. This one is Day-Glo pink. Hundreds of plastic bananas hang from the ceiling, as joyless zombies plod around, tapping blankly at their phones.

“I can’t go in there,” I think – but I must! I must exit! Where’s this pop-up’s pop-out sign? And where is my wife?

“Forget your wife!” I decide, batting my way through the bananas. “It’s too late for her! She’ll only slow you down!”

She brought me here. This is her fault. One day I’ll take her to a proper museum. On 27 January 2009, I opened the National Baked Bean Museum of Excellence, in a two-bedroom flat in Port Talbot. That had plaques. That had things in glass boxes. That had a theme that made sense. That wasn’t silly.

“Hiya!” says my wife, finding me trembling outside. “What did you think?”

I fix her with a serious glare.

“I learned next to nothing about the dairy industry,” I say, furious. I am going to pretend I really wanted to learn all about dairy until she says sorry for bringing me here.

“Get any good shots?” she says.

Yes,” I spit, after a pause, because I did. I didn’t tell you. But I got some crackers. My feed is going to look so 2017.

We go for food. There’s a fantastic pop-up round the corner, and you know how much I love kimchi buns.


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