Attractive Outdoor Interpretive Panels are Possible at a Bargain Price

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James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia sports some very attractive interpretive signs that looked so good, I had to figure out how they were made. With a bit of prodding and poking, I discovered they were printed plastic attached with Velcro to a sturdy wooden frame.  Very clever!  The signs are great looking even after a couple years outside.

Peggy Vaughan, Vice President of Communications and Visitor Services, generously shared that the three signs cost about $900 total:  $90 for each 30″x 40″ PVC sign and $210 for each base. The content, design, and bases were created in-house (yes, Montpelier is fortunate to have a graphic designer and master carpenters on staff) and the signs were printed by FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos). This sign was created using Adobe Indesign, saved as a pdf, and printed directly on PVC–the image isn’t as sharp but they last longer outdoors than the alternative method of laminating a printed image onto PVC. Peggy said that, “The big advantage to these signs for us was that they are relatively cheap, and because everything around here is always changing, we did not want to spend $2,000 on a proper museum sign, as we had in the past, that would be out of date before it wore out. And, frankly, even if things don’t change at your museum, your messaging should change from time-to-time to keep up, don’t you think?”

If you’re looking for more ideas for signs at historic sites, I’ve collected dozens of images from places around the world—good, bad, and ugly—on several web albums.  Please note that one sign may serve several purposes (e.g., directional AND identification), so look in other categories, too.

Identification Signs

Directional and Wayfinding Signs

Informational Signs