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We hear more and more about the ‘Big Society’, and how the ‘common man’ can help the big government organisations and charities by volunteering. We’ve covered such items before; here, here and here.

To many people, the call to arms brings to mind physical labour or presence, in the form of ground clearance work such as that successfully carried out by CASPN and LAN in Cornwall. Or maybe, regular health checkup visits to a local site. But what can you do if physically impaired, unable to travel or lacking local sites to adopt?

Signage is a thorny problem at many sites – They can be physically intrusive, expensive to install and maintain, limited in the information they can convey, and can be become outdated as new research comes to light. One aspect of improving sites that could be done quite comfortably from home thanks to technology is that of information.

There is a wealth of information about many sites already available on the internet; from the Scheduled Monuments Register descriptions held on the MAGIC web site by English Heritage and others, through enthusiast websites like the Modern Antiquarian and the Megalithic Portal, to websites dedicated to specific areas or single sites (eg the many sites dedicated to the Avebury WHS).

Technology is making this information ever easier to reach and to convey to site visitors, via the medium of QR Codes which can be scanned and interpreted by most of the new generation smart phones, using a freely available app(lication). Thus these codes can provide a gateway to a wealth of information.

So. A challenge for English Heritage, National Trust and other guardians of our ancient sites. Devise a scheme whereby volunteers can register to pull together and be responsible for site information, held on a central website (a wiki?). A very simplistic example of such a hub page can be seen hereCreate QR Codes for individual sites, pointing to an information hub page for the site. Redesign existing signage to reduce the visual impact and provide a scannable QR code on the sign, near to the entrance to the site.

 

Example signage showing QR Code

One small point: This isn’t a bureaucratic exercise. No-one will die if the information given is not 100% correct and tripled checked by highly paid experts and lawyers. The only cost should be for smaller replacement or additional signs (or even stickers on existing signs), improving the visitor experience without the need for trained on-site guides. It could be done incrementally, a site at a time, no need to wait for everything to be in place.

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