Budget Museum Hacks: 100 uses for foam board – #2 – A chalkboard

100 uses for foam board- #2 – A Chalkboard

Foam board use #1 – Flip books

This use of foam board is simple. A low-cost reusable chalkboard for adding an interactive element to your temporary exhibitions.

The chalkboard

I created this chalkboard for the extremely low budget Lost Collections of the Ancient World exhibit. One of the central objects in the exhibit was a large clay pot full of perforations, the “Mystery Vessel,” so named because we did not know the original intended purpose of this pot. So, we asked exhibit visitors to write what they thought it might be on the chalkboard. This helped add an evolving and interactive component to the exhibit.

“What do you think it is?” Chalkboard

The chalk can be removed just like from a regular board. You can of course paint chalkboard paint directly onto a wall, but the foam board ‘s light weight and portability allow it to be easily hung and re-hung in different locations throughout the museum and exhibits.

Materials: 

  • One foamboard (cut to size)
  • Chalkboard paint (you can purchase this at most hardware stores, or try making your own, it’s cheaper, and you can make it any colour you want!)
  • finishing nails
  • hammer

Step 1: Paint the foam board with an even layer of chalkboard paint

Step 2: Let it dry

Step 3: Use the finishing nails, one at each corner (plus one more along the middle of each edge – if making a large chalkboard) by gently taping in the finishing nails – this takes practice, you don’t want to hit the foam board with your hammer – It will dent!

And you’re done! 

Further suggestion: Do you want to have a full wall chalkboard without the permanency? Try painting multiple foam boards and puzzling them together on the wall.

If you have a Budget Museum Hack of your own, let me know! I would welcome guest blogs in this series 🙂

Budget Museum Hacks: 100 uses for foam board – #1 – Flipbooks

100 uses for foam board- #1 – Flipbooks

Now I don’t know if I have found 100 uses for foam board (which I have always called foam core), but I am confident that I could. I have found a lot of non-standard uses for the relatively cheap museum (small to medium sized museums anyway) staple. Traditionally these boards are used for mounting images and labels for an exhibit.

Foam board
Foam board

The title for this blog comes from a comment a former Boss of mine made about five years ago. I was working up in the north of Ontario and developing exhibits on a petty cash budget. What I did have was a good supply of foam board. Therefore, whenever I needed something I did not have and couldn’t buy cheaply (or locally); I would make it out of foam board. I made brochure holders, small display stands, and I even made a book strut once. One of the easiest and most effective uses I found is what I call a flipbook.

The Flipbook

These flipbooks, which are similar to the poster racks you can flip through in stores,  came about due to a need to display more material than I had space for. And also as a way to solve the problem of a flat 1-dimensional exhibit space. I was working with a traveling exhibit, the kind that consists primarily of images, and a few panels. Great content, but very flat in an exhibit space. I also had lots of great photos.  These flipbooks became a way of adding some dimension and interactivity without spending a lot of money.

Materials: 

  • Two foamboards (any size, as long as they are the same)
    • Use any colour you like, white is cheapest, but black is great. You can use coloured foam board as well, to add a splash of colour to an exhibit space).
  • Finishing nails
  • Ruler (A large square ruler works best)
  • Pencil
  • a hammer
  • box cutter

Step 1: Measure the exact centre of each board and draw a pencil line (this will be the back, so don’t worry about the pencil). Orient the boards either way you want.

Cut on short or long side
Cut on short or long side

Step 2: Using the ruler as a straight edge, carefully cut along your pencil line with the box cutter on each board. Being very careful only to go through the top layer of paper and about half-way into the central foam (you don’t want four pieces).

Step 3: Carefully snap the remaining portion of the foam core of each board. You now have two foam boards that fold in the centre but are held together very nicely with the remaining side. (optional step: you may want to reinforce the seam with some form of tape if your books will see a lot of wear).

Step 4: Adhere your photographs, labels, etc. to your boards as you normally would, paying attention to how they will eventually be displayed on the wall. (Remember you will have both the front and back of the free-hanging sides.

Step 5: To mount the flip books you will need a partner. Place the left-hand side of the left board against the wall in the correct position. Then hammer (or gently tap) a finishing nail into each corner – this takes practice, you don’t want to hit the foam board with your hammer – It will dent!

Step 6: Square the right side of the book up against the left and repeat step 5.

And you’re done! 

Tap finishing nails into the corners.
Tap finishing nails into the corners.

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If you have a Budget Museum Hack of your own, let me know! I would welcome guest blogs in this series 🙂

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