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Whack a Pop-Up?

August 15, 2011
whack a gator

Photo by Sabra Smith (sorry, they didn't have whack a mole, so you'll have to settle for whack a gator...)

Not long ago I’d proposed historic sites consider taking advantage of the current pop-up trend to bring their stories to the people, so that the people might discover them and then venture to the home site to expand the experience.

Little did I know that pop-up backlash was about to begin.  The New York Times‘ Neil Genzlinger (“Invasion of the Pop-Ups; Time for a Smack-Down“) compares the phenomenon to the boardwalk game of whack a mole and he’s twirling a heavy mallet in his hands.

Pop-ups — temporary business or cultural enterprises that materialize in empty storefronts, vacant lots and such, flaunting their own ephemerality — are hardly new, but suddenly they are everywhere. So are the news releases announcing them, which is the first clue that this phenomenon has lost any guerrilla chic it might once have had.

So, maybe it’s no longer chic, but I still maintain that there are positive possibilities for historic places that sit on a two-hundred year old stone foundation off the beaten path to consider creation of a — shall we call it a “temporary satellite location” where the people are.

Genzlinger worries these temporary flirtations will lead to broken hearts.

Tourists have enough trouble finding our most permanent, most visible attractions, as evident from the fact that you cannot linger in Midtown for five minutes before someone asks you where the Empire State Building is.

It won’t take many exchanges like this one before our tourist industry goes the way of garment-making and meatpacking:

“Excuse me, I’ve come 4,000 miles to see the Archery and Anchovies sports-booth-plus-pizza parlor that I read about last year. Can you direct me to it?”

“Archery and Anchovies? That was a pop-up, pal; it shut down last October. I think there’s a Pinkberry there now.”

And don’t children have enough impermanence in their lives, what with parents getting divorced, pop-culture heroes being jailed, pets dying, television shows being canceled and so on?

“Mommy, please tell me that the Gallery of Post-Proto-Feminist Fabric Art won’t disappear like Daddy did when he ran off with my nanny.”

“Well, Timmy, it won’t be in this same spot — I think they’re putting a Pinkberry there — but they’re sending it to a farm upstate where it can live with all the other pop-up galleries.”

And it’s right next to the fascinating old house sitting on the two-hundred year old stone foundation that has survived two centuries of trends that come and go.  Check it out while you’re there.

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