Clipboards. Something that no learning department in a school, museum or gallery would be complete without. You know what though?
As in, I really hate them.
I understand how they can be practical. These wooden boards with a clip on them let you write. These things let you draw. These things let you do those things absolutely anywhere; no need to be chained to a desk.
And that’s about it.
Clipboards are a bugger to store. That handy clip that lets you attach sheet after sheet of paper? No way is that going to let you stack these monstrosities neatly. Try to store more than two and every time you open that cupboard, you’ll be greeted with a waterfall of wood. Trust me, it’s not fun.
Beyond this though, they carry so many negative connotations.
Think about clipboards. Is anything positive coming to mind? I thought so.
Annoyingly, clipboards have become attached to one particular group of visitors. If there’s one trope about children in museums and galleries that I have grown to loathe, it’s the ‘horde of clipboard wielding school children.’ It’s one I see quite a bit when I’m helping Kids in Museums go through the post for the Family Friendly Museum Award. The fact that family and school audiences are *completely* different seems to escape people.
But I digress.
Firstly, the word ‘horde’ implies invasion, that this group don’t belong, they are entering a space which they intend to conquer. They have ceased being ‘schoolchildren’ and have transformed into an army of Berserkers, biting down on their shields before attack.
This is what clipboards become; shields, but without the connotations of protection. They are barriers – barriers between people, hence the ‘hordes’ metaphor (why is is always a ‘horde’?) – barriers between people and the objects, artefacts, or whatever it is they are supposed to be studying. It is a literal physical barrier you can put between yourself and whatever it is.
That can’t be right. Surely our roles as museum educators, it’s our job to bring barriers down? So why is a barrier such a go-to option?