Development of a Self-Guided Tour for El Caño Archaeological Park

Sponsor: El Caño Archaeological Park / Footprint Possibilities  
Student Team: Kayla Baez

Mary Kandaras

Matthew A St. Louis

Jessie M White

Abstract: El Caño Archaeological Park is an archeological site in the Coclé region of Panamá with great historic and cultural significance to the country. The goal of this project is to design a mobile application and a brochure to make the archaeological interpretation of the site accessible to French and English speakers. Our products were delivered in an editable format, along with a manual and training session so that El Caño’s staff can update or modify the information as seen fit.
Links: Final Report

Executive Summary

Archaeology is an important tool in studying how and why human behavior has evolved over time. The process of analyzing archaeological findings to explain their significance in history is called archaeological interpretation. Without this process, the success and shortcomings of past societies would be a mystery. Through archaeology, a nation’s cultural and ethnic identity can be preserved and solidified. Archaeology also promotes tourism and gives a nation a feeling of cultural pride and ancestry. El Caño Archaeological Park is a symbol of patriotism and pride for Panamá. It provides a deep link to the rich historical heritage of the country.

It is essential to preserve archaeological sites and to disseminate the information they contain. Artifacts and burial tombs found at El Caño date back to the Pre-Columbian period, between AD 680 – 1020. (Fundación El Caño, 2017). Currently, information pertaining to the site is only accessible to Spanish speakers (Fundación El Caño, 2017). During operating hours, visitors to El Caño have the ability to take a tour led by a Spanish-speaking guide or to wander the park at their leisure. Visitors can also visit the El Caño museum, where they will find signage in Spanish describing some of the ruins and artifacts found at El Caño, along with a vast historical background of the archaeological site. Presently, there are no guides or other means to communicate this information in English or French, presenting a barrier to the park’s Englishspeaking and French-speaking guests (Fundación El Caño, 2017).

Our goal was to create deliverables to make El Caño more accessible to English and French speakers. This was accomplished through the design and production of a mobile application and a brochure. Our solution was modeled from existing resources. We explored archaeological parks and other sites that have already implemented techniques for increasing accessibility to archaeological interpretation. We then fit these solutions to El Caño’s specific needs and limitations.

A few archaeological parks have used technology to increase accessibility to archaeological interpretation, specifically through the use of mobile applications. Applications are becoming the dominant form of digital interaction. A mobile application carries a multitude of benefits, including the fact that it can reinforce an organization’s brand, enhance visibility, and increase accessibility (Patel, 2017). Creating an application for El Caño Archaeological Park cannot only better display the information the park has to share, but can also attract international visitors. Alternatively, distributable materials are not commonly used for archaeological parks, but are more common in other tourist destinations. Many self-guided tours include a map with descriptions of the points of interest within the site. Guests can easily obtain brochures from the entrance to the site. Both of these solutions will be explored for El Caño Archaeological Park.

The first step in creating the deliverables was to collect information about El Caño. To do this, we established a Dropbox with Fundación El Caño to share information about the guided tours that are given at the park and the museum. Another vital aspect of the data collection phase was to visit the park and take the guided tour ourselves. The last significant resource for gathering information was through informal interviews with our sponsor Alexa Hancock.

The design and development of the mobile application involved three steps and resources. First, we analyzed the literature review to create the application’s features and aesthetic design. We then used a combination of wireframing software and web code to create initial designs to style the application. Once the initial designs were created, we transformed our web code into a progressive web application using a service worker. We then used a software called Cordova to transform our progressive web application into a native application. A flow chart detailing each of the steps can be seen in Figure 1 below and each of these steps are thoroughly discussed in the methodology chapter of this paper.

In the development process, there were a couple of aspects that needed testing including: download speed and functionality. During the refinement process, we made many edits to the application, including minimizing file size and therefore decreasing the download time on El Caño’s low-speed internet. By testing the application, we ensured that the application design did not take away from its functionality. The final step in the refinement process was to use thirdparty testers to get an objective, outside perspective on the application.

After application refinement, we started to distill the information from the tour into the brochure. This brochure is a condensed and informative version of the self-guided tour. The brochure designs were originally created using Adobe XD. This software allowed our team to brainstorm various designs before creating the final product and presenting to Fundación El Caño. The brochure is a tri-fold with information on both the park and museum. The designs parallel the application in fonts, colors, and images. The final product was printed and laminated to ensure its durability in Panamá’s volatile weather conditions and will be stored at the park for visitor use.

There are three deliverables that Fundación El Caño received at the conclusion of this project. The mobile application, the brochure, and the maintenance manual are discussed more in the Findings and Analysis Section. Each deliverable went through extensive revision with feedback from Fundación El Caño and third-party testers. The first deliverable is the mobile application. The mobile application costs one dollar in both the Apple and Android app stores. The main components in the mobile application include the following:

1) Language Settings

  1. a) English b) French

2) Interactive Map

  1. a) Clickable Park Map with the list of stops
  2. b) Clickable Museum map with the list of stops

3) Detailed Stop Information

  1. a) 8 locations within the park map
  2. b) 15 locations (displays and panels) within the museum

4) Sponsors

5) Donation link

The second deliverable is the tri-fold style brochure. The main components of the brochure include the following:

1) Main Logo, Android Application QR Code, and Park Contact Information

2) The Park Map

  1. a) Details about each stop

3) The Museum

  1. a) Brief overview

4) Sponsors Section

We designed the application to serve El Caño Archeological Park long after the end of the project. To help Fundación El Caño, we have written a maintenance manual that describes how to update the app, download the software necessary to the application’s maintenance, edit the application’s contents, and manage the app store listing. The maintenance manual also provides written instructions on how to revert the native application to a Progressive Web Application in case the instructions to update the application become dated or if the foundation is unable to perform the updates. We hope that these deliverables will increase archaeological interpretation in El Caño so that a broader range of people will enjoy and learn about the historical and cultural significance of this important archaeological site. English and French speaking visitors of all ages will be able to explore the wonders of the park for a small fee of one dollar. El Caño is a key symbol for Panama, and it is a site that should be shared with the world.