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National Park Service Plans to Install Signs Identifying Major Monuments on the Mall

The Park Service thinks otherwise. "We have visitors who want to see all our buildings," said Steve Lorenzetti, deputy superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. "But they don't know what the Washington Monument necessarily looks like, or the Lincoln, or the Jefferson. They could be looking right at the Washington Monument and not realize that's what it is."

Hunt, of Hunt Design in Pasadena, Calif., said in an interview last week that "as a person who travels a lot around the world, I'm always comforted when even the obvious is identified. I've stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial many times and had people [say they were] not sure what it was."

He said the Egyptian pyramids are, in fact, identified. "There's a sign that says which pyramid it is," he said.

"I think if you went around the world and looked at iconic destinations, you would find they are identified," he said. "It reinforces visitors' confidence in the place, and it closes the way-finding loop. It's 'Wow, I'm finally here.' " But, in deference to the arts commission, he said, work on icon signage will be deferred until later.

"We Washington insiders shouldn't overestimate the people's knowledge of the buildings and the history of this place," said Harriet Tregoning, who heads the District's planning office and represents the mayor on the National Capital Planning Commission. "It's a little bit snobbish of us to assume that certain things are so well known people would not even need any direction to them."

On the Mall last week, visitors were divided.

Bryan Goos, 37, of Urbandale, Iowa, on his first visit to Washington, said people ought to be able to identify things like the Lincoln Memorial without a sign.

"Maybe if you don't know what it is, maybe that's un-American," he said Friday as he stood on the plaza of the Lincoln Memorial. "There are several buildings in America that I think you just know the name of them . . . the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Capitol. Iconic symbols . . . I don't think there needs to be a sign."

But at the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Edsel Anderson, 75, and his wife, Launa, 69, of Foley, Ala., could have used some help finding the World War II Memorial, about a block away.

"There's nothing to say where it is," he said, with the monument partly visible through the trees.

Did we need signs for such icons?

"Yes, we do," said Launa.

"Now where is the Lincoln Memorial?" her husband asked.

Earlier, by the Vietnam Memorial's Wall, French high school teachers Etienne Maquin and Francoise Lepiece, of the Notre Dame Saint Victor school in Epernay, said their students could have used better signs. They had just visited the Lincoln Memorial.

"For foreigners, the name of Lincoln is known," Maquin, a history teacher said, "but who he was . . . is not always known." He wished there might have been some foreign-language signs.

"Inside the Lincoln monument, there are, for example, all the speeches of Lincoln, which are written, and no translation for foreigners," he said.

In France, he was asked, does the Eiffel Tower have a sign?

"Yes," he said. "In several languages."

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