By Ashley Orona
HIGHLAND PARK — A resident has created a tiny museum in front of her home to connect with the community, while highlighting important local issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Naama Haviv opened the outdoor tiny museum in early July. The museum’s exhibits reflect issues in the Highland Park community during the pandemic, as well as from recent police brutality protests. A gift shop lends a light-hearted aspect to the museum, with Haviv creating artifacts such as pet rocks that neighbors may adopt.
Haviv wanted to create a way to connect with her community in a socially distanced way while engaging people on serious issues.
“Part of why I did this was [because I thought] ‘this will be fun,’ and people that I don’t know will come by and, from a distance, I will be able to wave at people and say hello and feel some kind of connection,” she said.
The tiny museum’s first exhibit was about white fragility, a term that describes discomfort or defensiveness from a white person when confronted by racial injustice. The exhibit included eight stories of Haviv’s friends and relatives who shared stories of when they were aggressive towards people of color or defensive about their role in upholding white supremacy.
“They would tell me their stories of moments of white fragility,” Haviv said. “
The opening of the exhibit occurred around the time that George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police and protests against police brutality followed. The series of events made Haviv reflect on the privileges that she holds as someone who “move[s] through white society without question or concern” while still celebrating her Jewish heritage.
The museum’s gift shop has also become widely popular. Haviv put on a display of pet rocks that community members could adopt. All the rocks were named “Dwayne” after actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and all had a pair of googly eyes.
The pet rocks are so popular that neighbors now contribute hundreds of their own to the gift shop. The contributions include buttons with googly eyes called “Benjamin Buttons” and rocks painted as ladybugs and named after Lady Gaga. Someone recently donated pet rocks dressed in glasses, a crown and a jabot modeled after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who died Sept. 18.
Haviv said the museum not only amplifies serious issues, but offers a respite from the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, the protests and the election.
“There are kids who walk by everyday with their parents walking their dogs and adopt something everyday,” she said. “It takes some of the edge off to have something else to focus on.”