STATE-OF-THE-ART signs offering a high-tech way to learn more about Oxford’s history and heritage are being installed across the city.
A project to put up 70 new “hotspot” signs in the city centre is running this week.
Any of the city’s 150,000 residents or nine million annual visitors can scan the signs with a smartphone to learn more about the history, architecture and culture of each area.
The Explore Oxford signs will be mounted on walls, signposts and larger, free-standing structures around the city centre.
They will combine local maps with QR codes (Quick Response codes, a square barcode-like image) that can be scanned with a smartphone, bringing up a web page with true stories, old photographs, film
footage and recordings of local literature relevant to that particular corner of the city.
The first sign was unveiled at Carfax last week by Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth .
He said: “It is the simplicity of these maps which really appeals to me, each one is particular to its location and shows useful public facilities.
“Tourists are very important to Oxford, so it is important that they are able to get around and these maps are easier to read and use.”
The signs will mostly be in the city centre.
Tourism leaders even hope they will encourage people to explore and find alternative routes to the main thoroughfares and reduce crowding in the peak summer
months. More signs are planned for further out of the city centre, to Jericho in the north and The Plain in the east.
The system – one of the first in the UK – is also designed to encourage visitors to explore local businesses.
It comes after the Oxford Mail revealed that the Oxford Visitor Information Centre recorded 150,904 visitors between May and August this year compared to 263,515 last year, a drop of 43 per cent.
Sandie Griffiths, director of the Covered Market Trader’s Association, said: “We’re delighted the Market will appear on the signs.
“Letting people know where we are, what we offer and how to find us will help drive people through the door.”
Visitors can also plan their trip in advance by using the website oxfordexplore.com/en The city and county council worked with Oxford Preservation Trust and Oxford Civic Society to identify the
range of destinations highlighted and the information featured on each sign.
Richard Bradley, of Oxford Civic Society, said: “As someone with a long-term interest in Oxford’s history, being involved in this project was particularly rewarding.
“The signs offer a wealth of information about the local area, bringing our most fascinating stories and colourful characters to life.”
Guy Warren, director of Placemarque, the firm which designed the signs, said it was a user-friendly system that was easy to maintain and update.
The entire project has cost £400,000 including signs, design, building and the digital elements- the web pages and QR codes.