Art and Cartography


3609.2 - Designing an Experience: Maps and Signs at the Archaeological Site of Troy

Monday, July 3
3:10 PM - 3:30 PM
Location: Harding

I discuss ways of enhancing the visitor experience at the archaeological site of ancient Troy near Çanakkale, Turkey, by redesigning the current maps and signage. Maps and signage are essential for visitors to understand and appreciate the cultural, historical, and natural importance of a heritage site. As discussed below, many visitors are underwhelmed by Troy. This negative visitor experience can be attributed in part to the lack of a comprehensive plan for the design of the maps and signage onsite. The purpose of this research is to improve the visitor experience, especially that of tourists, by means of redesigning the maps and signage.
To accomplish this goal, I completed a content analysis of the maps and signage found at Troy in summer 2014. A 2009 needs assessment study identified “poor and confusing wayfinding” and “visual clutter and chaos” as the two greatest risk factors that adversely affect the Troy visitor experience (Riorden 2009: 9-10). As a UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site (UNESCO 2013), Troy should be showcased as well as preserved. Thus, any effort to improve the visitor experience at Troy is important and timely, particularly with the opening of a new museum scheduled for late 2016.
The content analysis of maps and signage at Troy was informed by scholarship in semiotics, broadly defined as the theory of signs (Noeth 1990). The semiotic approach is useful in understanding the denotation and connotation of maps and signage as an overarching system (MacEachren 1994) to the end of maximizing their communicative efficacy with site visitors. The content analysis also draws from practices in environmental graphic design, defined as the visual communication of information in a human-constructed environment (Calori 2007) The term signage refers to the installation of signs in the environment that provide visitors with some information about the environment.
Tourist studies also inform the analysis. Urry and Larson (2011: 2) describe the tourist gaze as a learned way of viewing the world through “ideas, skills, desires, and expectations, framed by social class, gender, nationality, age, and education.” This gaze is motivated by the quest for an “authentic” and extraordinary experience that is different from everyday life (Culler 1981: 5). Visual media that tourists consume before the trip builds an imaginary idea of what the place will be like (Urry and Larson 2011) and sets their expectations for the visit (Skinner and Theodossopoulos, 2011). As tourists leave home in search of a new experience, they then become “semioticians” of the landscape, looking for classic “signs” that “signify” the identity of the place (Urry and Larson 2011: 17, citing Culler 1981). Tourists “collect” these signs through photographs and other media as physical “markers” of place (MaCannell 2013: 122-123), and the tourist industry reproduces them for consumption through the production of trinkets and other souvenirs (Urry and Larson 2011:5). These reproductions in turn mark the “real” place as real (Culler 1981).
Many tourists report that their experience at Troy is a disappointment. First, many visit Troy after seeing Ephesus, which has rebuilt monuments, or compare the site to the better preserved Pompeii or Herculaneum. Second, Troy’s complex history and the sheer size of the site result in difficult navigation and interpretation for tourists without a guide. Third, the onsite maps and signage at Troy have been designed in an inconsistent and ad hoc manner. The tourist path is poorly marked with wayfinding signage, causing visitors to miss important structures or vistas. Finally, the maps and signage available at Troy do not meet the standards of cartography and graphic design.

Chelsea Nestel

PhD student
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Chelsea Nestel, MS GIS / Cartography, is a PhD student at UW Madison. For her MS (also at UW-Madison) she studied cartography and experiential graphic design (xgd) through completing a quantitative content analysis at the archaeological site of ancient Troy. Chelsea is considering a topic in emotion, memory and cartography for her PhD dissertation, and has completed a minor in art in support of that research. In her free time, Chelsea makes comics and indulges her interest in ancient Rome through historical fiction and other media.


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Sidonie Christophe

Senior researcher in Geovisualization
Univ. Paris-Est, LASTIG COGIT, IGN, ENSG, F-94160 Saint-Mande, France

PhD Sidonie Christophe is a senior researcher in cartography and geovisualization, in the COGIT Team of the IGN-France. She is co-chair of the ICA Commission on Cognitive Issues in Geographic Information Visualization, and also co-chair of the ISPRS Commission on Geovisualization, Augmented and Virtual Reality. Her research works focus on knowledge formalization for map and geovis -design, -use and -cognition, in particular on personalization and user control on design.


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3609.2 - Designing an Experience: Maps and Signs at the Archaeological Site of Troy

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