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Why Use a Wayside Exhibit?
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When trying to determine how to interpret a park site or feature, a key question must be answered: What is the best interpretive medium to use? In many instances, the best medium will be a wayside exhibit. Because they are located outdoors, close to the features they interpret, wayside exhibits can readily answer visitors' questions—at the time and place they have them. By engaging visitors at the times and places they want information, the visitors' experiences can be made more meaningful and rewarding.
Wayside exhibits are effective for a variety of reasons:
- Wayside exhibits are always on duty. They are available to visitors twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
- Despite their simple, low-tech character, wayside exhibits can provide a compelling visual format. Current technologies allow the presentation of large, full-color illustrations, photographs, and maps.
- Wayside exhibits foster a direct interaction between visitors and park features. As visitors gain knowledge about a subject from one exhibit, they can look for related features or sites and enjoy a more meaningful visit.
In addition to their role in interpretation, wayside exhibits can serve more practical purposes. They can provide information about park facilities, services, and management policies. They can alert visitors to safety or resource management issues at the point of danger or environmental impact, and can graphically emphasize the risk or explain the reason for the policy. They can also help protect park resources by establishing an official presence at remote, unstaffed locations. The simple presence of a wayside exhibit can sometimes be an effective resource protection tool.
Wayside exhibits are economical. They are a good value because:
- The cost of planning, designing, and fabricating wayside exhibits is less than for many other interpretive media. They do not require the substantial financial investment often associated with the installation and operation of other media. Wayside exhibits do not, for example, require the construction or remodeling of a visitor center, the hiring or training of staff, or the acquisition, installation, operation, or maintenance of specialized equipment.
- Wayside exhibits are easy to maintain. Exhibit panels require only an occasional cleaning with soap and water and a periodic application of boat or car wax. They are also relatively easy and inexpensive to repair. Most repairs to wayside exhibit panels and bases can be made by park staff.
- Wayside exhibits are durable. Even with limited care, most waysides can last for decades. When they do need to be replaced—due to vandalism, environmental deterioration, or to update information—wayside panels can be easily replaced if their original production materials have been preserved.
In short, wayside exhibits offer good interpretive value, providing information and interpretation at sites where it is needed, in an economical and durable format.