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Enjoy Magazine

Shasta Historical Society's QR Project

12/22/2015 11:23AM ● By Richard DuPertuis

We've Got  A Code For  That

January 2016

Story and photos by Richard Dupertuis

By the end of this month, Redding rresidents and visitors will be able to pass their phones and tablets over computer code mounted on downtown historic buildings to connect to the town’s past. Anyone with a Quick Read (QR) reader will be able to scan a square label in the corner of a window or a plaque mounted in brickwork, and open a web page filled about information about any of eight historical sites.

Seven of these locations stand downtown: the Bank of Shasta County, the International Order of Odd Fellows building, the Behrens-Eaton House and Museum, The Lorenz Hotel, the Cascade Theater, Old City Hall and the Shasta Historical Society building. The eighth attraction is the Diestelhorst Bridge, a bit of a walk north of downtown.

Visitors to a linked web page will have access to two different media to learn about that location’s history. Traditionalists will enjoy reading text on the page, detailing the origin of the structure, perhaps its builders and occupying businesses, up through the past 100 years or so. Those with more modern tastes may prefer to view a two-minute video of the site’s past, narrated on camera by a gentleman well-known in late 1800s Redding: James McCormick.

Of course, since McCormick died more than a century ago, no video of him exists, so he is portrayed by a present-day player, former Shasta Historical Society board member Mike Grifantini. Naturally white-haired and sporting a snowy goatee, Grifantini represents McCormick in his later years, as a distinguished businessman and owner of the Big Store. 

Grifantini, a Redding resident for 20 years, became a face in the town’s history about eight years ago, when he started giving walking tours downtown. “I did so because no one else was doing them, or if they did, they charged for the walks,” he says. “I wanted to have a way to share my interest with people and to try to make local history fun, interesting and understandable.”

During these tours, he polished the character of McCormick, writing his scripts and carefully selecting his attire. “I have found that while many people like historic tours, when they are led by a person dressed up and acting out a part, it adds to the quality of the event. Then it becomes history, entertainment and fun – all in one.”

What became the joint effort between the Shasta Historical Society and Viva Downtown Redding to code historic buildings began when Grifantini and his friend Mike Fish met one day last year. “We were brainstorming at lunch about the appreciation of history and how to convey it to the next generation,” says Grifantini. “And he said, ‘Why not use QR code?’”

Grifantini and Fish took the idea to the Historic Structures and Facilities Committee, a committee of the Shasta Historical Society board. The society’s archives and collections registrar remembers liking what she heard. “Walking tours of some kind could continue, in case Mike Grifantini could no longer do them,” recalls Nikki Espinosa. “They would bring attention to our most prized, local historic buildings. It would get more people downtown.”

Also attending this meeting was Sue Lang, a longtime community volunteer and organizer. She saw generating interest in selected structures as a way to preserve them. “I hope these efforts will ward off any more historic buildings being torn down,” she says. 

Like other serious volunteers, Lang occupies a seat on more than one committee. She also sits on the design committee of Viva Downtown Redding, which is a National Main Street Organization, designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the State of California, Office of Historic Preservation.

On the design committee, Lang linked with Ty Bos, a local videographer self-employed under the name Outlander Creative. He agreed to shoot the video clips of Grifantini’s McCormick pro bono. “I’ve been living in downtown Redding for the majority of my life. This is something I like to do,” he says of his role in the project, which includes providing the QR code.

Lang, who serves as producer, says the first eight coded locations could be the beginning of something bigger. “Our roll out will be January 23, with eight historic sites. We’ll see how it goes. If it creates interest, there can be more.” Her personal interest in the project goes beyond preserving antique brick and mortar:  “It’s for what the buildings do for us. They remind us of our shared history. That instills in us a pride in our roots.” •