A bunch of little plastic babies, a tiny sweater, a collection of Disney pins and an “Internet Detective” plaque. This seemingly random group of objects all have something in common: an art exhibition called Object of My Affection: An Exhibit of All Kinds of Love, which was on display at Art Bash 2018.
We Love Museums, a club composed of Museum Studies graduate students and other students interested in the museum field, created the crowdsourced pop-up exhibit for the School of Art and Art History’s open house event on Feb. 9.
The club was inspired by the Museum of Broken Relationships in Los Angeles, California, that went viral. The club sent out a "Call for Objects," asking people to submit an object for all to see along with a description that could be as poetic or as humorous as they wished. The items could be symbolic of any kind of relationship, from an ex to a best friend and everything in between.
“There was some nervousness throughout the club that we would not get enough submissions or that only the club would participate,” said Lynea Wilson, Treasurer of We Love Museums and a second-year Museum Studies graduate student.
However, when the club picked up submissions the week of the exhibit, they were elated to see that many people submitted items, accompanied by thought-out descriptions.
“We went through each loaned object as a group, one at a time, and were moved by both the objects and the information shared with us about them,” Wilson said. “Seeing how an everyday object’s meaning is transformed once you learned just a little information about it was both charming to experience and a lesson about museum interpretation.”
Beside the exhibition space, the club hosted an art-making activity to continue the Valentine’s Day theme and further engage the community. Simple craft materials like glue sticks, stickers, colored paper and doilies were spread out on the table. The club provided a simple prompt to follow, asking participants to create a valentine for their favorite museum.
“People were interested in our craft because they really seemed to be connected to one institution in particular, whether it be across the country or here in Gainesville,” said Lauren O’Neill, a member of the club and a second-year Museum Studies graduate student.
Participants attached their valentines to the wall behind the craft table when they were complete. The result was a tapestry of colorful valentines, shouting out institution from the Whitney Museum in New York City to the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville.
“People really wanted to express how the museum affected them, and it was cool to see the different reasons on why they loved the museum on the wall,” O’Neill said.
The museum posted photos of the valentines on Twitter using #museumcrush, which was picked up by Twitter users from outside the UF community.
The students in the club learned about the importance of participation in a museum setting. They planned to use the information provided in submitted descriptions to create more formal labels but decided to use the owner’s own words as the actual labels.
“When you give people the ability and autonomy to write their own story it will be more interesting and more impactful. This idea has certainly come up in a number of museum studies courses, but seeing it as part of the pop-up experience really illustrated the fact for me,” Wilson said.
The exhibit illustrated commonalities amongst the diverse community at the University of Florida and in Gainesville.
“It was like a bonding experience because we have all suffered heartbreak, and we all have similar kinds of relationships, so it’s cool to see how you can relate to someone you don’t know personally,” O’Neill said.