Mobile museum fair brings knowledge and culture to Central Library

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By Rachel Parsons
Hub Correspondent

Los Angeles is not at a loss for world-class museums, but sometimes planning a trip to one can be daunting. So sometimes, the museum can come to you.

The Library Foundation of Los Angeles hosted its first Mobile Museum Fair on Sunday at Central Library downtown, gathering nearly 30 mobile museums, libraries, and other exhibits on wheels from throughout the city.

The city’s big museums were there in their semi-trucks – LACMA, NHM, The Aquarium of the Pacific, but a number of smaller mobile museums delighted and educated as well.

Mark Barbour is executive director and curator at the International Printing Museum based in Carson, whose truck, packed with an antique press had an engrossed crowd in front all afternoon as he gave demonstrations and dropped all kinds of knowledge. He can explain why letters are called “uppercase” and “lowercase”, for example.

“This is right up our alley, Barbour said. “Engaging people within the world of museums in unique ways.”

Barbour’s truck can often be found at schools from California to Arizona, usually with someone onboard portraying Ben Franklin. The Los Angeles Public Library invited several of its small community library partners, too.

The Feminist Library on Wheels distributes books primarily in East Los Angeles by car or tricycle. Like the printing museum, FLOW’s booth was crowded all afternoon with people signing up for old-school paper library cards while their kids petted pythons across the courtyard at the live animal exhibit.

“It’s like my dream Sunday,” said Tilly Hinton, an attendee and researcher in environmental humanities, as she stood outside the California Sneaker Museum’s exhibit. “I’m super interested in what people are driven to collect.”

“The L. A. public library system is really imaginative and flexible,” Hinton said. “And I suspect that it’s attracted an audience that might not necessarily spend their Sunday at a library or a [museum].”

The fair was produced as part of the library’s indoor exhibit 21 Collections: Every Object Has a Story, curated by Todd Lerew.

“It is overwhelming,” Lerew said of the event’s turnout, standing between a giant elephant made of walnuts shells and a bench made of soda can tabs. “We had no idea what to expect.”

The library estimates more than 5,000 people attended.

The exhibit 21 Collections: Every Object Has a Story is on view inside the library until Jan. 27. Crowd favorites include the candy wrapper exhibit, Tom Hanks’ collection of antique typewriters, and the African American history display.

Learn more about all of the museums, libraries, and other exhibits from the fair here.

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