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Turners Falls’ QR codes help put the town on the map

Nina Rossi of Nina’s Nook with her QR code outside of her store on Avenue A in Turners Falls.
Recorder/Paul Franz

Nina Rossi of Nina’s Nook with her QR code outside of her store on Avenue A in Turners Falls. Recorder/Paul Franz

TURNERS FALLS — If all goes according to vision, curious Parisians could soon be learning all about this little village. Or Floridians, Midwesterners, Greenfield residents, anyone really.

Through the effort of a Hampshire College student working on his thesis the Turners Falls RiverCulture organization is hoping to put Turners Falls on the cyber map with QR codes, the ubiquitous little checkered squares that function like barcodes for users of smartphones.

Scanning the square with a phone — provided the phone has the capability and a code-reading application — will take the user to a related web page.

In this case, the links are to vignettes student Robert “RJ” Sakai gathered regarding the village’s past, information about its present and other things.

Scanning the link painted on the shingle in the doorway alcove of Nina’s Nook at 125 Avenue A, for example, will pull up a YouTube video featuring owner Nina Rossi reading a poem. At the bottom of the page is a Google map pinpointing the shop’s location.

Ideally, Turners Falls RiverCulture interim Director Lisa Davol would like people to come across these QR codes and other links elsewhere.

The codes have been out on shingles for some time, but the corresponding web content wasn’t complete until recently, and organizers are taking the project in a different direction with printable versions of the QR codes.

Davol said the plan is to encourage traveling residents, visiting college students and passers-by to print out the codes and leave them in far-flung locations. She envisions QR links to Turners Falls on notice boards in Paris, or anywhere else. That way, curious out-of-towners can access the information about Turners Falls from afar, or visitors already in the village can access details about the buildings and businesses around them by scanning the original codes on buildings.

Initially the codes could be found in six locations throughout town, painted on slate shingles as digital information posts.

Many of the original shingles were defaced or disappeared, Davol said, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“We decided it was good that that happened because our real market is the rest of the world,” Davol said.

Instead of informing people who already frequent the downtown shops and restaurants, or bike path and other attractions, Davol would rather draw in newcomers.

Turners Falls RiverCulture exists to promote the downtown arts economy, advertising, initiating or supporting downtown shops, events and art installations.

In this case, the project was a development of Davol’s connection with a Hampshire College professor who organized a trip to Hamburg, Germany, in 2011 for area cultural directors to observe that city’s reuse of abandoned industrial spaces. The professor put Sakai in touch with Davol, bringing in his free expertise.

Codes remain scattered throughout town for those with an eye for detail, and the codes can be found on the RiverCulture website:


For those without smartphones, the videos and other content, including surveys about the village, can be accessed by clicking on the QR code images on the website.

The codes stand at six. Davol said it would be great to add more at some point, but there are no current plans to do so due to the time and skill required.

Included are the stories of village resident Ed Gregory and his fossil collection, the history of the Second Street Baking Co. on Fourth Street, Avenue A shops Nina’s Nook and Loot, and the Rendezvous bar on Third Street.

The sixth and last of the QR codes is a question, which will change occasionally. Presently, users are asked to type what they would do if they ran Turners Falls, and can view answers left by others.

Davol has directed the RiverCulture program since its inception in 2006, currently on an interim basis after taking a job with the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. Having again won the competitive state grant that provides half the program’s funding, the town is nearing the end of the hiring process for a new director.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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