New signs and technology help visitors at Port Arthur

August 20, 2014


New signs and technology are helping visitors find their way and connect with history at the Port Arthur Historic Site.

The first new feature visitors will notice as they enter the Site from the Visitor Centre is the striking 46” digital display screen that has replaced a clock face with moveable hands that displayed the next tour departure time.

“In addition to counting down to the next tour, the new screen offers the all-important ‘you are here’ map, information on the weather, historical stories and details on any special events or activities that may be occurring at any given time or day,” said Dr Jody Steele, Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) Manager of Heritage Programs.

“It gives visitors much deeper access to information. It also gets around the way that some mischievous visitors would move the hands on the old clock, causing confusion all around.”

The digital sign is just one part of an overhaul of the way-finding and interpretive signage across the Historic Site.

“Various types of signage had been installed at Port Arthur over recent decades, with at least five different interpretation signage styles, with many one-off signage elements scattered around the site at various locations giving a disjointed presentation of information,“ said Dr Steele.

Research also revealed that visitors were having difficulty finding their way around, particularly at some of the major pathway intersections.

“In designing the new signage, we have aimed to help visitors find their way while engaging them with historical and contextual information that add meaning to the Site as they move around it.”

Three levels of signage will, when completed, display precinct or locality signs that introduce the main features of the area and the relevant contextual themes, features and functions of buildings and other features and some of the characters of the site. Small, discreet and sometimes tucked away for the visitor to discover, these signs may be a quote picture or a phrase.

The changing profile of visitors is reflected in directional and basic information being presented in both English and Simplified Chinese. Future plans include provision of additional information in multiple languages via mobile technologies such as QR codes or near-field communication chips, which can be embedded on the signs and updated as technology advances without the need to replace the signage infrastructure.

The overall signage strategy incorporates coherent design across all three historic sites managed by PAHSMA, including the Port Arthur, Coal Mines and Cascades Female Factory Historic Sites.

The first stage of what has is a multi stage project was supported by the Commonwealth Government through a Tourism Quality Projects Grants (TQUAL) to the amount of $100,000, with funds matched by PAHSMA.