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New interpretive waysides unveiled

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Photo courtesy Vicksburg National Military Park Photo courtesy Vicksburg National Military Park

VICKSBURG, Ms., (KNOE 8 News) - Vicksburg National Military Park has unveiled its new Interpretive Waysides. The project reflects eighteen months of planning, design, fabrication, and installation of the state of the art interpretive media.

The interpretive waysides (or "panels") are a popular format used throughout the National Park Service to encourage visitor understanding of the park's stories. 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 while they explore the park, their experiences can be made more meaningful and rewarding.

The new wayside program at Vicksburg National Military Park includes several unique features. Original color artwork depicts the historic landscape one hundred and fifty years ago exactly where the visitor is standing. Many of the waysides are also fitted with quick reaction, or "QR", codes. Visitors with smart phones equipped with a scanner application, can scan a wayside to view the retired park historian, Terry Winschel providing a more in-depth description beyond that offered by the wayside.

Vicksburg is one of the first national parks to utilize this technology.

Park Superintendent Michael Madell points out, "We also are very excited to help our visually-impaired visitors enjoy the park. We have invested in state-of-the-art portable audio units that will allow these visitors to experience the battlefield by listening to brief audio descriptions of each stop." Madell goes on to explain that the portable units incorporate GPS technology that automatically activates as a visitor reaches a particular wayside exhibit. Two of the panels also include three-dimensional tactile models to encourage the visually impaired visitor to touch and "see" trenches and topographical features.

In addition to their role in interpretation, some of the wayside exhibits serve more practical purposes. These waysides provide information about park facilities, services, and management policies. They alert visitors to safety or resource management issues at the point of concern or environmental impact, and can graphically emphasize issues or explain the reason for the policy.

Another component of the project was the placement of new directional and attraction signs throughout the park. This new "wayfinding" system is intended to make it easier for visitors to navigate through the park and to find sites of interest.

This Civil War Sesquicentennial project was made possible because of funds returned to the park from entrance fees paid by visitors.

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