Bathroom museum

IMG_3764When you start looking for interpretive signage, it’s everywhere. Even in the bathroom. Maybe especially in the bathroom.

All we wanted, really, was lunch. Right on the line between Arizona and California, not quite a “sweet spot” (in fact, the quite dishevelled community of Quartzite, Arizona). The Times 3 restaurant beckoned from the highway; we stopped. We got out. We wondered at the sulphurous air. We looked it up: Quartzite is America’s rock capital. Rockhounds flock here in droves. It’s the point of Quartzite, its reason for being.

We sat with menus. My husband got up and came back, saying to me, “You gotta go to the bathroom.”

Just between the men’s and the women’s rooms, a whole wall of old photos, lovingly annotated. Let it be known: I love this stuff. I love the care that’s taken, the very idea “we know this place”. We care about this place and the stories it holds.


Sure, most of it was a straight-up listing of names and dates. But the fact that it’s there is what impressed me most.

We finished our meal and went up to the counter to pay. One last treat: at the cash machine, trapped under the weight of glass, a menu. The restaurant remembers itself. I left, delighted.




Out on the range


Welcome sign at the Sonoran Desert Museum: private, not-for-profit. You read that right.

Say it slowly: The Sonoran Desert Museum.

If you’re me, you’ve just somehow mangled that in your head as the Snorin’ Museum. I’m here to tell you: anything but snorin’, fellow museum geeks.

A delightful experience (albeit not cheap), I was particularly impressed by the text, even though there were distractions aplenty, from flying raptors to a forest of spiked saguaro cacti and ocelots/foxes/porcupines and heat-omg-heat. Even getting here–crossing a rather vertiginous slope up and down from Tucson–was a bit of an adventure.

Once there, the various tones of the texts, the straight-ahead approach, and the museum’s willingness and ability to use humour and wit were all impressive.


Yes, that’s an exclamation mark.

I really like layered text, being able to pick out what I want to read. I’ve compared myself to a hummingbird before, flitting about exhibitions, draining the nectar from the flowers, often ignoring the foliage, and perhaps pollinating while I go, but not really intentionally. /persuasive-yet-clumsy-hummingbird-analogy

Here, I was immediately drawn to the, erhm, drawings, signalling a light approach. A deeper dive was possible in the smaller text, revealing more layers of information, most of it interesting and applicable to what I could observe with my own eyes.


Okay, there’s a bit of confusion with capitalization (title caps mixed with sentence structure with no period…where was the editor?), and egregious fontification, but way to draw attention to what the bees were up to (surely the point). Plus, clever adjacent bee-id info.

The “bee condo” texts were attractive and flawed, but moving in a direction I could get behind. I took more time in this area specifically because this information was here. Plus, seating.


Sorry for the spackly-light, but this was a neat summation of a…summit.

Here’s a bit of hard science-y information condensed in a readable and understandable chunk. Though a little long for my tastes, the combo of good graphic and solid prose made me forgive the light text on dark background. And putting the visitor perceptions directly into the narrative was welcome. Again, I spent more time here because of this text.


Use your words.

This was the part of the visit when my husband turned to me and said, “What are you taking a picture of now?” A small keep-off-the-grass sign, okay? Okay. It’s so simple to say “Keep Off” and so much more difficult to say why. This is just nice, clear text. Layered within a very few number of words. Easy, but thoughtful. Don’t just tell people what to do, tell them why they should do it.

It’s the haiku of interpretive text, all right?

Other aspects of the Sonoran Desert Museum were less successful: the food was meh and the heat drove us off the mountain, just as emergency personnel were called in to deal with someone suffering from what I presume was some sort of sun-induced ailment during the overcrowded raptor flight demonstration. In February, people.

But definitely worth a visit. Lovely grounds, pleasant text. Bring water.


Sad, sad text

Please. Just stop with the historical markers. If I’m going to pull my car out of breakneck traffic to swerve to your roadside marker, if I’m going to stop in the unshaded heat of midday to crane my neck upwards, if I’m going to stop near a muttering drunk on 6th street at midnight to examine your plaque on the side of an historic building, please please please make it worth my while.

Just not this.


Sign in downtown Austin

Did you make it past the second sentence? Me neither.

Give me some excellent words. Something that conveys a sense of excitement and purpose, that pops with violence or passion, that leaves me gutted or uplifted.

Also: ALL CAPS. For the love of god, no.