Pop-up museums in Blackpool - a heritage resource

In Blackpool, 128 local residents worked with professional artists to create the Blackpool Treasure Trove, a heritage resource of seven pop-up museums. This case study forms part of the Value of culture - learning and development section of our online Culture Hub.

This two-year project was created by Blackpool Council and the Blackpool Volunteer Centre and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which provided £65,000. It bought together local people, historical artefacts and artists with two main aims: to engender a greater sense of pride in Blackpool and its place as the world’s first mass seaside resort, and to make the borough’s historic collections more accessible.

The idea came about through conversations at the Community Heritage Steering Group, which includes representatives from the council, Volunteer Centre and the community. The project built on the basic principles of the council’s community heritage programme: to get more people involved in heritage and increase knowledge about Blackpool’s history.

Many local residents know little about Blackpool’s major role in the development of the traditional seaside holiday, and this project provided a way to challenge negative perceptions and enable people to discover something to be proud about in their town. Councillor Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council’s Deputy Leader, said: “Blackpool’s low level of educational attainment has had a direct impact on the feeling of self-worth of many residents, leading to lack of aspiration and ambition. Projects like this, which highlight the positive aspects of Blackpool and combine learning and fun, are really important.”

The project was publicised in the community and a taster event was held. People who decided to get involved were divided into seven groups, each with a mix of ages and backgrounds. They visited the local history centre and museums, had back-room tours, met curators and saw conservators at work. Each group then worked with an artist to design and create a pop-up museum based on one aspect of Blackpool’s history, supported by the local history librarian.

Impact of the project

The biggest impact is that the project helped to influence the development of a permanent Museum for Blackpool, which is now underway. It also made a huge difference to the way the participants felt about their town. At the publicity events they talked avidly and knowledgably about Blackpool with a new passion and pride. In turn, they have encouraged others to learn about and appreciate their local history. Participants contributed 3,055 hours to the project (509 days). Twenty heritage volunteers got involved in the project, contributing a further 1,122 hours.

The council now has a resource of seven pop-up museums which have given a focus to community heritage events and are used in venues such as schools, shopping centres, day care centres, community groups and at heritage open days. By late 2016, more than 12,000 people had seen at least one pop-up museum. Other outcomes have included:

  •  increased participation in heritage activities
  • the participants learnt new skills and had fun while learning
  • new volunteers joined the community heritage programme
  • existing volunteers developed new skills. 

Looking to the future 

The council is now working towards a permanent Museum for Blackpool, a £26 million project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This will build on learning from the Blackpool Treasure Trove and will be designed as a dynamic and celebratory space filled with artefacts, film, music and performance.

Key learning points

  • Pop-up museums can engage new audiences with local heritage, and areas with a permanent museum site can use pop-up museums to provide outreach opportunities.
  • It can take time to build relationships and trust with community groups. 
  • When working with creative artists it is important to assess their ability to work with different groups as well as the quality of their work.

For further information contact Heather Morrow, Head of Heritage, Blackpool Council: heather.morrow@blackpool.gov.uk


This case study has been developed in conjunction with Arts Council England