Explore a Historic Trail Using QR Codes!
Camden, ME: Visitors and locals alike in the beautiful seaside village of Camden, Maine have been noticing small but distinctive tiles and decals cropping up throughout town. There are no words or pictures on them, but rather the distinctive patterns of black and white of the now ubiquitous Quick Response Codes. Should someone snap a photo of the code with a phone or mobile device loaded with the right software, a mobile website will open on their device showing them both the history of the spot where they are standing and contemporary information on their exact location. The site will also show where other codes with more fascinating history and insight are located throughout the town.
This “Quick Response Code History Trail” is the brainchild of Dan Bookham of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce and Peter Palermo, owner of Elm Street Printing & Graphics of Camden. Back in late 2010, Palermo brought quick response codes to the Chamber's attention. QRCs are bar codes that, when scanned or photographed from an appropriate mobile device (phone, tablet computer, etc), connect the user with information (a website, text message, audio file, etc).
As Bookham noted, “Together, we thought using QRCs on plaques around town for a history tour would be a novel way to demonstrate both Camden's long history and embrace of new technologies. We chose Camden as the test case as there was immediate and concurrent interest from the Historic Resources Commission, and we knew that the various protections in place around sign design and placement in Camden would discipline us to develop a simple and elegant solution”.
With support from the Chamber and copy from the Town of Camden’s Historic Resources Commission, Palermo developed a series of mobile websites (a site optimized to work on a mobile phone screen): one each for 6 locations (the public library, the Olmstead designed Harbor Park, the stunning Camden amphitheatre, Camden’s historic Opera House, the working waterfront along the Public Landing, and the Village Green). Local historian Anne Morris wrote the histories, and photos were sourced with the help of the Camden History Center. The websites were paid for by the Chamber of Commerce.
The next issue was designing the plaques to be noticeable but elegant and in keeping with the character of the buildings and locations on the tour. Jesse Henry (of Chamber member the Inn at Ocean’s Edge in Lincolnville) shared photos of a QR tour from Italy that used ceramic tiles for the plaques. This seemed like a good solution as a white tile is handsome, easily affixed to a building or post without damaging screws etc, more durable than a decal, and easily printed upon. Peter tested durability of the tile and the printed info on his building this winter and it passed with flying colors, and the codes were installed around Camden this summer using both the sturdy tiles for outdoor display and decals for inside buildings.
With the codes in place for just under a month, early statistics show that curiosity is driving many residents and visitors to snap a photo and explore the mobile websites and thus get a great sense of Camden’s rich history.
“In the absence of finding anyone else doing this, we believe we might be the first Chamber and town in Maine, if not New England or the United States, trying out this fun combination of modern technology and storied history.” said Bookham, who also noted that should funding, permission, and collaboration be secured from other communities in the Penobscot Bay region so that the QR Code Trail could be eventually “Extended from Port Clyde to Lincolnville” in keeping with the Chamber’s regional mission.