MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 3, 2012

New tech tells old tales

Smartphone codes at buildings open history videos

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— TAHLEQUAH — Tahlequah Main Street Association has a newfangled way to show off its old buildings.

Signs bearing smartphone QR (quick response), or square codes, are popping up on street lamps throughout downtown Tahlequah. Scan one of those crazy-quilt squares and learn all about the history of the building near the street lamp.

“The scanners link to a video showing the history of the building,” said Drew Haley, Tahlequah Main Street’s program manager.

Another QR code on the signs have links to upcoming area events.

The QR code signs have been put on 14 street lamps since last June, Haley said.

Haley knew who to call when the Main Street Association looked for people to appear on the videos.

Beth Herrington, chairwoman of the city of Tahlequah’s historical board, can tell stories about just about any building in downtown.

When she mentions a building, she’s just as likely to note the date it was built and what it was known for.

“There’s the Cherokee Square, established in 1839 with the Cherokees’ union after the Trail of Tears,” Herrington said. “We had the first telephones west of the Mississippi River. We had the first Main Street platted, 1841 to 1843.”

Haley scanned a QR code on a street lamp by the Main Street office. A video came on his smartphone showing Herrington talking about the first school in Tahlequah, built in 1846. The building no longer stands, Haley said, explaining that the school was near where the city pool is now.

“She knows everything there is to know about Tahlequah,” Haley said.

He said Herrington created historic pamphlets about downtown Tahlequah.

“He (Haley) had an idea of doing something on the light poles to get people more involved in the history of downtown Tahlequah,” Herrington said.

“People walk into the chamber daily and want to know about the history,” Haley said.

Haley said he had thought about putting up kiosks that would have maps and historic information about notable buildings. Then the idea about the QR codes hit him.

“Everyone has their own digital kiosk,” he said. “And with their phone, they can pick up a little piece of history.”

Not every building has a QR code. Seminary Hall and historic buildings on the Northeastern State University campus do not yet have QR code signs. Haley said a QR code sign just south of the campus mentions Seminary Hall.

He said he is planning to put up more QR code signs this spring. There are plenty more historic buildings to tout. Herrington said Tahlequah has 15 sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.