Behind the Scenes: Christmas Pop-up Exhibit

Happy Holidays ya’ll!

Each year at the Museum we have a month-long Holiday Exhibition called the Gallery of Trees. This year to coincide with the thirty trees decorated by local non-profits, we also decided to do a mini-exhibit of some Christmas and holiday-related items we have in the Collections Department.


The Museum’s collection department is full of SO MANY amazing artifacts that rarely get to see the light of day.  This short Pop-up exhibit will be up for the month of December and its a chance to see some items that may not ever have been on display.

The exhibit was originally going to be a scavenger hunt of sorts throughout the museum, but because of the number of trees and decorations, I decided it would be better to keep it to a small number of cases located in the Centennial Room, the room in the entrance of the building.

I decided to use five cases, which meant I could have five different sections. I put out a search for heirloom holiday pieces which yielded only one item, a Brazilian Nativity set. I decided to do a case of several Nativities of various sizes and materials from all around the world. I also used a collection of holiday-themed postcards from the Museum’s postcard collection, several vintage and antique toys, a collection of vintage ornaments, and some of our antique cameras.




The itmes needed a consitant theme throughout to tie them all together. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the “feeling” of the exhibit and the aesthetic.


Once I got a handle on the types of design I would like to use, I set out doing research on the content of the exhibit. For some of the items, such as the nativities, I wanted to explain what they are and that sometimes these items can be passed down throughout the generations. It can be a little difficult to make an inclusive display when the theme of the exhibit is the holidays, namely Christmas. Not everyone celebrates but I wanted everyone to find something about the exhibit they could relate to.



Once I had a handle on the concept and design, I pulled all the artifacts together and took a look at layout and construction. I taped out space the size of the cases I was using on my worktable and got out a bunch of mounting supplies. Many of the cases have all different types of items, and I wanted each case to have multiple levels of display.

The most challenging display was the vintage ornaments. I didn’t want to set them in the case and have a flat static design. When I could not procure a tree small enough, I decided to make the case itself the hanging apparatus. I measured out five descending points on the case top and fastened removable 3M hooks to the corresponding positions. I then used fishing line to connect the hooks and fastened it VERY TIGHTLY. The ornaments were then suspended on the line at multiple levels within the case.


The items were then carefully placed in the exhibit cases.


I chose a wide variety of Holiday Cards, including one with velvet flowers!



Four nativities fit in this case comfortably with the multiple tiers of display.


I added the fake snow to the case on the off chance that an ornament takes a fall. All of the hooks were reinforced with wire before hanging.


To get the marbles to stay in place, I drew an enclosed shape with hot glue on a piece of parchment paper. It was easy to peel off when dry and it keeps the marbles from roaming the case.


This case includes several original photographs and antique cameras. The label content encourages visitors to make holiday memories and capture them for years to come!

All of the cases are topped with a Gingerbread house to match the Gallery of Trees theme and interpretive signage with label content.



Getting to see the entire process of an exhibit from start to finish is my favorite part of my job.  I get to see each and every draft of copy, each tentative design, and concept through to the end and problem solve at each level of development. Smaller Museums like ours are smaller teams of people. It can be overwhelming just how many hats we all have to wear, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am grateful I get to see projects through to the end and no day is the same as the last. 🙂

Thanks for reading!



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