Three new Civil War Trails signs have been installed in Wheeling, West Virginia, the first phase of a project focused on updating content and improving the visitor experience throughout the city.
The new signs replace older versions and offer more engaging text and media to fuel the imagination of visitors, according to Drew A. Gruber, executive director of Civil War Trails, Inc., which partnered with Wheeling Heritage, West Virginia Independence Hall, and the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau to install the new signs.
Standing where the historic events took place, the signs can be found at the historic location of Camp Carlile on North Wabash Street, at West Virginia Independence Hall at the corner of 16th and Market streets, and at the location of the Wheeling Hospital at 108 Main Street.
Several local historians, including Betsy Sweeny, Deborah Jones, Jon-Erik Gilot, and Margaret Brennan, brought new research and insight to the project.
Betsy Sweeny, director of heritage programming for Wheeling Heritage, said the new signs were vital for immersive interpretation.
“We know that many people enjoy learning about the Civil War," Sweeny said, and it is our goal to communicate those stories in an accurate, relevant manner. The updated language in the new signs centers the reader and gives them a sense of the moment in time that they are reading about."
The Civil War Trails program is noted for continually refreshing content on its signs and associated brochures, Gruber said.
“Our program is unique in that the sites are constantly being updated to keep pace with new scholarship, amenities, and as expectations from our dynamic audience change.”
Every trail site is networked together with more than 1,400 others across six states, and each is marketed internationally by state tourism offices, destination marketing organizations, and municipal partners. This means that although the signs provide educational content the program helps to drive economic development by promoting travel.
The program’s popularity continues to grow, especially over the past two years since each trail site is located outside and the tour is self-guided.
According to Gruber, the program recently added staff to help respond to increasing visitor inquiries and process new site applications. Additionally, the West Virginia Department of Tourism is reprinting the popular Civil War Trails brochure.
Olivia Litman, Marketing Director for Visit Wheeling, WV said the new signs are good news for Wheeling businesses.
“Visit Wheeling has always used our destination’s history as an amenity to our visitors," Litman said. "We were very pleased to be involved with updating the signs that will allow our visitors to learn more about our destination.”
The partners hope to complete the second stage of the project early next year.
Gruber encourages visitors to check out the new sites and snap a #signselfie with #civilwartrails and #visitwheelingwv.