Porch Pop Up exhibits return to the Birmingham Museum

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 5, 2021

 The Allen House was built in 1926 on the site of a historic brick schoolhouse that can still be seen in its facade. Birmingham Museum staff and board members will host pop-up exhibits every Friday through September.

The Allen House was built in 1926 on the site of a historic brick schoolhouse that can still be seen in its facade. Birmingham Museum staff and board members will host pop-up exhibits every Friday through September.

Photo provided by Leslie Pielack, The Birmingham Museum

 The Birmingham Museum landscape restoration project plans to re-introduce disease-resistant elm trees like these that once stood around the Allen House.

The Birmingham Museum landscape restoration project plans to re-introduce disease-resistant elm trees like these that once stood around the Allen House.

Photo provided by Leslie Pielack, The Birmingham Museum

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BIRMINGHAM — Last fall, the Birmingham Museum made sure visitors didn’t miss the chance to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They moved the milestone exhibit outside for guests to safely explore.

Now that the weather is warming, the museum plans to bring back the Porch Pop Up exhibits each Friday afternoon through September.

The exhibits will be open 1-4 p.m. Fridays on the sprawling front porch of the historic Allen House, and every installment will have something new for visitors.

“We realized we could take advantage of our large porch to do a historic ‘show and tell,’ with objects from our collection. People can wander up to see them while safely learning a thing or two about Birmingham’s history,” Museum Director Leslie Pielack said in a prepared statement.

Each month will have a theme, with different artifacts and stories each Friday. May’s theme is “The Museum’s Changing Landscape.”

“The community is often surprised to learn that there are a couple hundred years of history right here on our grounds,” Pielack said. “The Allen House was built on the site of the first brick school in Birmingham, and we can show visitors how to spot the walls of the original school in its façade.”

The Allen House, home to the city’s first mayor, Harry Allen, and his wife, Marion, was built in 1926. It’s a central piece of the museum property, and its history is more poignant than ever. Soon after the Allen family moved into the home, their young son and eventual Birmingham City Commission member Jim Allen contracted polio, likely from swimming in the pond on the property. That story, along with several other tales, will be part of the rotating exhibit.

Each Friday, a member of the Birmingham Museum board will be on-site to answer questions about the museum and chat a bit about plans for landscape restoration, funded largely by an anonymous donation gifted to the organization back in 2018.

“Our board is passionate about Birmingham’s history and our plans for restoring the grounds,” board Chair Tina Krizanic said in a press release. “We are excited to share the first phase of the project, which is due to start any day and will include improvements to the fencing, permanent museum signage and the re-introduction of historically appropriate elm trees between the Allen and Hunter houses.”

Krizanic explained that, when the Allens built their one-of-a-kind Dutch colonial house, the grounds had plenty of mature elm trees, but many were destroyed by Dutch elm disease. New, disease-resistant varieties are available now, and the board hopes the trees can be planted to bring even more authenticity to the site.

Future topics for Porch Pop Up Fridays can be found on the museum’s social media, including Facebook and Twitter at @bham_museum. Other resources and some exhibits are available virtually while the museum is closed to visitors. To see those, visit the museum’s website at bham.gov/museum.

The Birmingham Museum is located at 556 W. Maple Road in downtown Birmingham.

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