War History Signs, Cowra POW Camp

War history signs interpreting the Cowra POW Camp and Japanese breakout in WWII are the primary method of delivering this extraordinary story to visitors. In addition there is an audio option at the rebuilt guard tower and engaging hologram story at the Visitor Centre.

War History Signs

Date: August 2013 – July 2014
Service: Interpretive planning, shelter design (Architect, Steve Gorrell), research, identify themes, write content, design WWII history signs, mapping, installation design, image sourcing, and project manage production.
Specs: Over 30 signs in total. Viewing Platform – 4 large interpretive signs covering the main nationalities involved – Australians, Japanese, Italians and Indonesians
Viewing Platform – 2 smaller signs, one with Japanese text and the other as a tribute to the four Australians who died during the breakout
Arrival Area – overview of WW2 in relation to Cowra – 2 signs “War” and “Peace”
Camp Ruins – 13 interpretive signs revealing human interest stories
Wayfinding – a linking walk from the Japanese Gardens to the POW Camp – 6 signs
Blades – at the entrance to the POW Camp – upright panels fixed to corten steel
Mobile website to work as a mini tour guide – still in development
Client: Cowra Council

Interpretive Planning

Preliminary designs were submitted with the draft interpretation plan, including a style guide, construction options, other interpretive elements and indicative pricing within 3 weeks of being appointed as the successful tenderer.

Interpretive Signage Design Elements

In addition to creating preliminary sign concepts we also developed a style palette for ongoing use.

A feature of the designs for this project was colour coding the interpretive material by nationality. There are four major groups represented at the POW Camp and the ruins are spread out over a large area. Group visits by nationality are common, especially by Japanese and Italians. This approach allows visitors to identify their own stories (in the vast area of the camp ruins) simply by colour.

  • Green – Australia
  • Red – Japanese
  • Yellow – Italian
  • Blue – Indonesian

The grey background colour was drawn from the surrounding granite outcrops. An old style ‘grunge’ font was used to reflect the mood of war. Industrial materials (Corten) have been used for the bases of the signs to further reinforce the harshness of war. A haiku poem in calligraphy marks the base of two Japanese panels. It reflects the loss of life and the ethereal nature of the soul.

Several manufacturing options, styles and pricing estimates were provided and discussed with Council and stakeholders before final selection.

The viewing platform contains 4 large war history signs (1500mm wide x 900mm high) covering the main nationalities involved – Australians, Japanese, Italians and Indonesians – and 2 smaller signs, one with Japanese text and the other as a tribute to the four Australians who died during the breakout. These shelter signs had legs rather than a solid base to allow more visibility to the view of the POW Camp and surrounding area.

War History Signs – arrival area

WWII history signs in the arrival area are timeline and map based. This arival area give visitors an overview of WWII in relation to Cowra (2 signs “War” and “Peace”) and an orientation map of POW Camp today. This map is orientated to match the direction the visitor is facing when viewing the POW Camp. Cowra Council planted a delineating fence around the perimeter of the camp, increased visitor facilities and access, and beautified wherever they could.

Visitors connect with the stories as they walk through the historic locations of the POW campsite and Garrison area.

Interpretive Writing

We strive to find personal stories and weave them into the main theme often using imagery to help. We also strive to connect the tangibles, intangibles and universals.

With access to unlimited information only the most engaging, most attractive, and most accessible information is going to get through to the intended audience. This is what we practice day-to-day in designing, writing content and planning interpretive resources.

Writing alone might be engaging but at the heart of interpretation is design. Design is the bait and the hook that invites the audience to look closer and engage. Writing and design combined connects with the emotional experience of the observer, facilitates introspection and when successful, turns the casual observer into a passionate supporter.

The final stories communicate the following:

  • The site is a place of remembrance, reflection and respect
  • Historically sound information, reflecting the events and values of the time
  • The Camp accommodated different ethnic groups between 1941 and 1947
  • The site of The Japanese Breakout

Blades were used at the entrance to the POW Camp (upright panels fixed to corten steel) to provide easy identification of the site and a welcome to visitors. In addition, 6 x large foldback wayfinding signs (1000mm wide x 600mm high) guide visitors from the original Garrison Gates (near the Cowra Japanese Gardens) to the POW Camp along the original Garrison road.

Heritage Interpretation, Cowra POW Camp ruins

Heritage Signage, Trial Bay Gaol
Aboriginal Signage, Flat Camp and Buzby Flats