Sign language

When we were visiting Springfield in downstate Illinois a few years ago, we ate at Charlie Parker’s, a breakfast-and-lunch joint fashioned out of a modified Quonset hut. On the walls were all kinds of signs, but this one was my favorite:

naughty children sign

Taken at Charlie Parker’s, Springfield, IL in 2009

I know it looks like one of those over-shared, over-liked pictures you’d find on your Facebook newsfeed, but it’s not. For me there’s something more satisfying about seeing a sign like that in the wild and capturing it with my own camera. It’s snagging a trophy on a spontaneous photo safari.

A friend of mine, Mark Guarino, has taken that same feeling to a whole new level of sign-obsession. After years of taking photos of quirky, strange and wonderful signs while traveling for his job, he’s displayed them at his latest brainchild, The Museum of Signs and Industry.

As he writes in his Facebook post announcing the museum’s grand opening:

I later realized that, if organized into categories, they [the photos] might tell a story about how we communicate in public. Teaming up with designer and programmer Alexia Vanek, I created The Museum of Signs & Industry, a quasi-museum where the photos are curated, and where the public is invited to submit their own discoveries for inclusion.

There is no purpose here but obsession and fun. I invite you to take a look, submit a photo, comment, and enjoy.

Click through the gallery and tell me you don’t wonder about the story behind some of those signs. Some are silly or clever, others spiritual. Some are so faded they’re hard to read but display a weathered artistry, a testament to yesteryear.

I keep thinking about the one handwritten on a scrap of paper: “Closed. Wife has kidney stone.” Clearly, the guy felt that he needed to explain why he was closed. But did he scrawl it quickly to hurry back to his wife? Did he feel he had to write it so he wouldn’t have to explain over and over why his shop was closed? Did he want everyone to know about his wife’s health? I wish I knew.

The best part about this museum is that anyone can contribute a photo of a sign to be considered as an addition to the collection.

I’m thinking of submitting these gems that my husband S and I have taken over the years. There’s the unexpected:

Ladder at a hardware store

Ladder at a hardware store

And the inexplicable:

Clueless sign

Absolutely straightforward directions

There’s the anachronistic:

No biking sign on Parthenon

Taken in Nashville, TN in 2012

And the wry:

COBOL programmer bumpersticker

A very hungry programmer

Tell me: do you take pictures of signs too? And do you wonder about the story they tell?

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About thethingaboutjoan

Mom of three who knits a little, bakes a lot, crafts a bit and blogs about it all.
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15 Responses to Sign language

  1. go Mama O says:

    Yes! Great signs in your post! I recently took a picture of a sign outside of a cheese shop in Wisconsin. Check it out: http://gomamao.com/2013/05/01/best-cheese-billboard-ever/

  2. This is a fun site you have shown us. I have bookmarked it.

  3. I love this! I love quirky signs, old buildings and anything that makes me wonder. Thanks for sharing the link!

  4. This is so cool! Love the idea of this museum. There is a shop in our town that has the “unattended children” sign — I’ve always loved that one and find it to be so fitting! 🙂

    • It’s a fun idea, isn’t it? I like that Mark decided to take his sign obsession to the next level by “opening” this quasi-museum.

      I love that sign! There were some other cute ones in that restaurant, but I nabbed that one because I had just taken a gulp of coffee when I saw it above our table and I almost did a spit take! So funny.

  5. Cul de Sac says:

    Love reading those kind of signs, the ones that make you wondering the why it’s there 🙂 going to look up that museum! thanks for sharing the link Joan! hugs!

    • I love them too! I hoping that there will be new signs to wonder about soon over at his website. I really enjoy taking a tour of the signs from the by-roads and off-the-beaten-paths from my living room!

  6. don’t know why I love these signs too Joan! 🙂 & they always make me think & dream ! thanks for sharing with us!

  7. Pingback: Best Cheese Billboard to be in Museum!! | go mama o

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