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Adventures with Markeroni

This post is part 16 of our Wednesday Adventure Series. Each week we will highlight something different in the Washington, D.C., Metro Area, many of which will be options for part of your own BookCrossing Journey. With so many things to see and do, how will you choose?


Have you ever stopped to read a historical marker, or wanted to know more about an interesting old building? If so, the Markeroni site is for you.

Markeroni is a friendly, informal and light-hearted online community where history fans, treasure hunters, and travelers log their visits to historical markers and historic landmarks. All you technically need is yourself and access to the internet, but most members also bring a camera and notebook to document their visit. GPS coordinates for many markers are also available on the site. Currently the Markeroni database only covers the USA, Canada, British Isles, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. A worldwide database is in progress.

Markeroni was founded on August 13th, 2003 by BookCrosser WhiteRaven13, who says the idea of Markeroni began as a month-long solo motorcycle tour of historical markers in California. The trip was canceled due to mechanical problems, but she decided to share her interest with the world, providing a site to help others find historical markers, “which seemed to move around at night.” Her travel memoir, A Little Twist of Texas, documents her adventures traveling to the 2005 BookCrossing Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, combining her loves of Markeroni, motorcycles, and BookCrossing. She even has Markeroni-themed BookCrossing Labels and hosts an annual history release challenge.

Some examples of books released at snarfs (click for the journal entries & larger photos):

Like many hobbies, Markeroni comes with a lingo all its own. Snarf is a slightly complicated term, referring to both the actual visit to a historical landmark, and the act of hunting for them. (If you aren’t fond of the term “snarf”, it’s perfectly okay to call it “landmark hunting”.) A snarfari is any excursion made for the specific purpose of snarfing. Members of Markeroni are called Markeroons. Many Markeroons bring a mascot, often a plush toy, to “pose” with the markers in snarf photographs. Kudos are colored stars next to a member’s name to indicate how many landmarks they’ve logged. In short, if you’re going on snarfari with your fellow Markeroons to increase your kudos, don’t forget your mascot!

In order for a landmark to count as a snarf on Markeroni, it must fall into one of the following categories:

* Any signs, plaques or markers that give information about history (or, sometimes, natural history)
* Monuments and statues so long as they depict a figure in history (i.e., not art and not religious icons)
* Memorial plaques so long as they give more information about the person than just their name and dates
* Landmarks that have been designated (given some kind of legal protection) at the national, regional or town level
* War memorials
* Museums–but you have to actually go inside and visit the museum before you can log it!

Participation in the site is completely free, but you can gain additional features with a premium membership, including the ability to “direct log” a marker not already in the system (as opposed to requesting it, waiting for it to be added, then logging your visit). After covering about half its operating costs, 10% of Markeroni’s proceeds go toward historical preservation.

A downtown Washington snarfari is one of your activity options for Friday morning (early bird) and Saturday afternoon. For those who don’t wish to snarf, the activity is doubling as a release walk. This short journey is being led by active Markeroon and BookCrosser melydia, who is attempting to bribe people into signing up by giving everyone who joins the snarfari a free mascot. (But we’ll let you in on a little secret: she’s such a softie she’ll probably give you one even if you choose a different activity for Saturday.) We’ll also have a Markeroni starter package as one of the raffle prizes you can enter to win at the convention, which will give you a great start in this hobby.

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