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Interpretive Services and Outreach Good Enough to Share Banner

Good Enough to Share

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  • If you have a Good Enough to Share submission, please email it to

  • Making Interpretation Memorable

  • Validation of a water safety message from a visitor

    A Whole Lot Proud Video

    Corps Story Display
    Original and wide screen versions available for use at local visitor center kiosks

    Preservation of Historic and Important Objects
    Documents are mostly to be used as guidance and SOP type material for folks in the field that deal with important items. It's not meant to replace policies and procedures already in place, but to help people who are concerned about historic / important objects in their organizations and need some help.

    South Atlantic Division Memorial/Drowning Identification Buoy

    South Atlantic Division Water Safety PPT

    Still Developing the Toolbox: Making EE Relevant for Culturally Diverse Groups

    Water Safety Billboard Partnership with Entergy (FERC) and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
    Our water safety budget is minimal at best and we are continually forced to more with less. In this case, this partnering effort essentially free to Corps, funded by our partners promotes water safety to 30,000 motorists per day on Arkansas Scenic 7 Byway adjacent to DeGray Lake project lands.

    Maintaining quality customer care while facing continued funding shortfalls is difficult at best, yet through partnering efforts we have helped make DeGray Lake and surrounding waters a safer place to work and visit.

    Water Safety Resource Guide

    Interpretive Services and Outreach Toolbox

    Cell phone technology to translate signage for visitors
    In use at the Sacramento Zoo plus other zoos, parks, gardens. A standard sign lists codes for languages that the visitor dials with their personal cell phone for a translation. The zoo even receives a rebate for usage. Go to this url:

    Kiosk software
    Kiosk software allows visitors to customize tours/experiences to their personal preferences. In use at many gardens and arboreta, but could also be used to locate birding sites, etc. at a Corps project. Go to this url: and click on Kiosk Software link on the left.

    Listen to Spanish Phrases

    Accessibility and Interpretive Signs, Exhibits, and Panels
    The use of best practices is encouraged to make interpretive signs and exhibits accessible to as many of our visitors as possible. USACE has no standards for accessibility in signage, interpretive or otherwise.

    According to the National Center for Accessibility, there are no ADA guidelines for interpretive signs. Other Federal agencies, including the Smithsonian and the Forest Service, have developed guidelines that may be useful to consider when designing interpretive media.

    As in all things interpretive, the first step in planning is to know your audience. Will the panel be accessible by wheelchairs, and will it be such that a wheelchair user will want to pull right up to? In that case, the front edge will need to be high enough to clear the knees, 27". Otherwise, a bit lower would work if the intended audience is children or is to be viewed at a bit more distance, including people in wheelchairs.

    The Smithsonian Institution (SI) has developed guidelines for interpretive exhibits. SI recommends the bottom edge of interpretive panels and vertical cases in museums/visitor centers be 27". This also facilitates travel by visually impaired people who use canes.

    The US Forest Service has some good, brief guidelines. It states that the mounting height of angled (30 - 45 degrees) panels be 24 to 30". For low profile (flat) exhibits, USFS recommends the front height be 32", SI states a maximum of 36".

    Recommendations For Wayside Exhibits/Interpretive Signs:

    • Follow the USFS guidelines:
      • Height 24 - 36" above ground level,
      • Panel at 30 - 45 degree angle.
    • Optimum height of bottom edge of frame for wayside exhibit above pavement or floor is 27". That is a good recommendation for vertical panels such as orientation signs, also.
    • Select type size appropriate to the viewing distance. Typically they will be:
      • Typeface should be no smaller than 24 pt. for captions;
      • Typeface should be no smaller than 36 pt. for text;
      • Subtitles: 40-48 point;
      • Titles should be at least 60-72 point, If the title is more than 80 above ground level, letter size should be at least 3.
      • For signs at greater distance to the viewer, font size will increase proportionally. At a minimum distance of 1 meter, double the size.
    • Create color contrast between text and background. The best color combinations are black or blue and white, or white on brown.
    • People who have low vision will need larger type than other visitors at every distance. When calculating distance, consider also the effects of crowds on actual viewing distance.

    For more information, see the references below.
    A vitrine, mentioned in the SI guidelines, is a glass showcase. By wayside exhibits we mean those outdoor interpretive signs that are usually placed at an angle from the horizontal so as to be easily read, but not obstruct the view.

    U.S. Forest Service interpretive design guidelines

    Excerpts from the Smithsonian Institute guidelines for Accessible Exhibition Design. This document is considered the best practice for designing exhibits. It includes information about fonts and lettering, mounting heights, distances, contrasts etc. Much of this document is applicable to signage, see especially section b.

If Not Us, Who? If Not Now, When?
by Will LaPage, published in Legacy January/February 2002

The Problem-Solving Matrix

    It is easy to describe a problem. Problems are a known quantity. They are easy to identify but not necessarily easy to solve. Solving a problem requires a goal that is not always known. Many times, the objectives of solving the problem will define the goal.

    When problems arise, management needs to find the best way to correct the situation. Many times, interpretation can be used to accomplish this.

    Interpretation and the ISOP are not luxuries, something that's nice to do when there is extra money and people available. Interpretation can and should be used as a management tool to help us achieve our mission. Everyone is an interpreter, not just specific park rangers. Interpretation needs to be used externally with the public, private sector, and other agencies. It also needs to be used internally with our own people. This seems to be one of the hardest things for managers to understand. Interpretation can be a two-way communication process. Outreach, partnering with other groups, is part of the solution. How can we use this invaluable tool? By using the matrix, each part of solving the problem can be dissected and looked at individually.

    Problem - Identify the problem in as much detail as necessary.

    Objective - List the various options that could be done to alleviate the situation.

    Methodology - List the various options that could be used to achieve the objective.

    Recommended Action Plan - This is where the methodology is implemented. How will the plan be executed? Who will spearhead the effort? Get all the details identified.


    ProblemObjectiveMethodologyRecommended Action Plan
  • Problem
  • Cause
  • Focus point
  • Effect
  • What do we want to happen?
  • Audience
  • Media options
  • Opportunities
  • Partners
  • Implementation and execution
  • POC

Corps Photo Album
Why would you use it? To find photos for brochures, displays, special event flyers, reports, etc.

Virtual Exhibits
The National Museum of the American Indian website has excellent examples of virtual exhibits.

Water and Dams in Today's World - a video
The video, "Water and Dams in Today's World," was produced for the United States Society on Dams ( Snippets from older films make part of the video appear dated, but, overall, it does a GREAT job explaining the benefits of dams and why they were needed in centuries past and continue to be needed today. Secondly, it provides good information in general about dams and their workings. It is highly recommended for all visitor centers, and anyone needing to explain dams and their benefits. To obtain a free copy of the video, e-mail Mr. Larry Stephens at He's prepared to fill orders if he gets flooded with e-mails! [This review provided by Bonnie Ecker, CENWS-OD-TS-NR]

Water Safety Fun Books

  • Ranger Willie B. Safe Activity Book
  • Water Safety Adventure Activity Book
  • Water Safety Fun Book

Water Safety Posters

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