|A typical Pennsylvania historical marker|
What has me thinking about historical markers is one particular sign I pass often but which I have never fully read. I have been able to make out its title and a line or two as I pass by, but there are probably 10 or so lines of text on the plaque. I have no hope of ever learning what the marker is intended to communicate.
Historical markers are often the product of extended lobbying by interested groups that believe that some event, activity, person, or people should be memorialized. The erection of a plaque seemingly is the consummation of such a campaign. Ironically, the resulting marker may almost never be read after its installation ceremony simply because it is poorly located.
|Typical Burma-Shave sign set. The final sign always|
To illustrate this idea, consider the Pennsylvania historical marker illustrated above. A set of signs could be created that could be read in sequence as the actual marker is approached:
- HISTORICAL MARKER AHEAD
- BURNING OF CHAMBERSBURG
- OVER THIS ROAD
- GEN. GEORGE McCAUSLAND’S
- CONFEDERATE CALVARY
- MARCHED NORTH ON JULY 29, 1864.
- BY WAY OF MERCERSBURG,
- THEY REACHED AND BURNED CHAMERSBURG
- NEXT MORNING, AND WERE AT
- McCONNELLSBURG NEXT NIGHT.
That’s 10 signs, of course, and many markers would require even more signs. That may seem cumbersome, but this scheme could make accessible information that is now hidden in plain sight.