Conway history meets the 21st century

sjones@thesunnews.comJuly 19, 2013 

Conway has a well-deserved reputation for knowing the value of a well-preserved 19th century building or a live oak tree that’s been around a couple of hundred years, but those who accuse it of living in the past haven’t been introduced to its latest tour.

Looking to attract the younger, fully-wired generation, the city on Friday initiated a 10-stop tour that uses QR codes to direct tourists to and teach them about some of the city’s most treasured sites.

QR is the acronym for quick response and the tour uses barcodes that can be scanned by an iPhone or iPad that will then call up a website page with all the site’s associated goodies.

Covering everything from the Gullah Geechee culture to the Waccamaw River to churches and, yes, one of the city’s named live oaks, the tour gives those with mobile electronic devices a brief history of the site, a video with more information, historic and current photos, fun facts and directions to the next stop on the tour.

“It’s really neat the way it uses technology to illustrate history,” said Ben Burroughs, director of the Horry County Archive Center at Coastal Carolina University and the narrator for a couple of the videos. “I think the younger crowd will find it interesting.”

Hillary Howard, director of Conway Downtown Alive, an organization dedicated to promoting the city’s downtown area, said Conway also has a printed tour that people can follow on a walk that takes about three hours. The multi-media tour initiated Friday takes about an hour from start to finish, she said.

“I feel this is going to bring a different age-range of visitor,” she said of the new offering.

Howard said the work of two interns from Duke University was instrumental in developing the new tour. Special signs were designed that use the city clock tower as an emblem with the QR code in the clock’s face.

Counting the cost of poles, signs and printing, Howard said Downtown Alive spent less than $1,000 for a tour that some places need $20,000 to get in place.

One of the tour’s interesting facts, Howard said, gives the history of the ornate fountain that is in a courtyard next to City Hall. It was purchased from Charleston for $25, Howard said, and was at the intersection of Main Street and Third Avenue, just a few yards from where it is now, before being moved to its present location.

Howard said Conway Downtown Alive will be able to track the tour’s visitors to know how well it is used.

While developed specifically for the technology aware segment of the population, those with a little less electronic acumen can also see the tour. It can be accessed by a laptop or desktop computer through qrtour.conwayalive.com.

“It’s a different type of tour,” Howard said.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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