The Process of Creating Signage
Signage in the Cowling Arboretum was the physical aspect of our two-pronged public archaeology project. Since the Arb has existing signage, one of the goals of our project was to make our signs as indistinguishable from the preexisting signs as possible. The first step in achieving this was reaching out to the current director of the Cowling Arboretum, Nancy Braker, in order to get a template. After she sent us a PDF of one of the current Arb signs, we were able to mimic the sign’s format on Canva, matching colors, fonts, maps, text sizes, and image borders.
In order to produce the most concise and informative content for the signs, we spent time pouring over the documentary record, oral histories, and preexisting Archaeology in the Arb web pages. Through this process and careful peer review, we were able to narrow down crucial information. The other priority we had while creating these signs was our audience. Although the Arb is part of Carleton’s campus, it is often frequented by a variety of different people, with different levels of archaeological interest and knowledge. In order to appeal to as large a group as possible, we made sure to keep the language simple and the sentences concise in our signs. We also supplemented our text with images to make the signs more interactive.
The only place where we strayed from the sign template was in our use of QR codes. While our signs provide a strong basic understanding of each site, there is a limited amount of space to share more detailed information about the sites. In order to appeal to those who are interested in learning more about the sites and their archaeology, we placed scannable QR codes on each sign. Each QR code links to a different web page that provides more information about the site. Most of the QR codes bring visitors to different Archaeology in the Arb web pages, a way of also giving the class website more publicity. We chose to implement QR codes over typed URLs because they are extremely user-friendly and require less work than manually typing in a link.
It is our hope that one day these signs are printed and displayed around campus, satisfying the physical aspect of our public archaeology project. Until that is possible, we have the signs below in a digital form. Users can visit these sites virtually, gain the same information, and scan the QR codes provided.
Interactive Map with Signs
The map below is a digital representation of our arb signs and their locations around campus.
Conclusions & Discussions
In retrospect, the most difficult part about creating signage was knowing what information should go on the sign, and what could be cut out. Most of our previous experiences in archaeology have pushed us to include all the smallest details in reports, instead of just focusing on the main ideas. It was also interesting to take into account the positioning of the sign. A lot of time was dedicated to figuring out which paths and areas would attract the most foot traffic and attention for the signs. Creating these signs pushed us to focus on different aspects of archaeology and use the skills we have learned (mapping, archaeological writing, documentary research) in a different context.