To finish or not to finish???

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When working with reclaimed barn wood for an outdoor project... (In this case a large business sign) do I apply a finish or not?

I'm worried that leaving it bare might risk the sign cracking, warping etc over time.

However, any finish I use to protect the wood from the Caligornia sun (in this case) will ruin the look...

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Posting a picture of the project may help with the responses, but there has to be a finish like a marine varnish that won't affect the color that much.  I am going to guess the wood isn't something that is good for outdoors, where it weathers like cedar.

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