The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. With 20 million visitors each year, the Parkway is the most visited national park in the nation and its wayside exhibits, installed in the 1980s, required replacement.
We traveled with National Park Service staff along the entire parkway to assess potential wayside exhibit locations. At each location we outlined initial content, and assessed orientation needs, interpretive potential, and accessibility. We then developed content, graphic design, and audio descriptions for 38 wayside panels. One of the panels features the homeland of the Cherokee and is presented in both English and Cherokee languages.
The new wayside exhibits have greatly improved visitor orientation and appreciation of special stories along the parkway. As one of the first National Park Service wayside exhibit projects to include audio description, our development process set a model for future projects with audio description. In 2014, we received an Interpretive Media Award from the National Association for Interpretation for our exhibits along the Blue Ridge Parkway.