Combining modern technology with history and ancient natural resources, the Schoharie County Historical Society is today launching a test to provide cellphone users detailed information about nearly a dozen countywide attractions as they drive by.
Signs posted at various sites will alert users of any telephone to call (518) 823-1293 to hear pre-recorded information during the one-month test, said Old Stone Fort Director Carle Kopecky.
Although ideas for self-driving tours have been kicking around county tourism and promotion groups for years, and were identified during the county’s spring Economic Summit, Kopecky said he thought of trying the cellphone tours after a presentation at the Museum Association of New York’s conference in April.
Rochester-based On Cell Audio, which made the presentation, is providing the service, using locally produced audio uploaded to them.
The one-month pilot project will cost $195, using funds from the Old Stone Fort’s advertising budget, according to Kopecky.
Most messages were digitally recorded using donated studio time at WSDE Radio in Cobleskill, he said. Most recordings were done by Words, Voices, Idea Architects, a company operated by Kopecky’s wife, Joellyn. Other assistance came from the Iroquois Indian Museum and Landis Arboretum.
In an unrelated, recently completed test using a different service provider, the Schoharie Crossing Historic Site in Montgomery County had 147 calls in two months, said site manager Janice Fontanella. That system was limited to locations on the site where the Schoharie Creek joins the Mohawk River in Fort Hunter.
“We were pretty pleased with that,” Fontanella said Monday. “We are certainly going to talk about continuing it.”
If the Schoharie County tour proves popular, additional funds from nonprofit groups may be sought, as well as possibly private businesses, Kopecky said.
Initially the tour will include the Cobleskill Fairgrounds, the Iroquois Indian Museum, McFail’s Cave, a Sharon Springs walking tour, the Landis Arboretum, the Old Stone Fort, the sites of the Revolutionary War Middle Fort and Upper Fort in the Middleburgh area, and the prominent Fultonham hill and hiking area called Vroman’s Nose.
Information about the tours will be available during this week’s Schoharie County Fair at the Historical Society display in the Hall of Agriculture and at the county Emergency Management Office table in Progressland.
Some of the tour locations, such as the Old Stone Fort, which was the original Lower Fort along the Schoharie Creek, include more than one message.
Not all the sites are open to the public. One little known area closed to the public is McFail’s Cave in the Grovenors Corners area of Carlisle.
“It’s the longest cave in the Northeast,” Kopecky said of the 7-mile cave and underground chambers owned by the National Speleological Society.
The phone service allows users to fast forward or replay messages, leave comments and go to additional locations.
“It uses new technology, without having to invest in any hardware or equipment,” such as speakers at historical sites, Kopecky said Monday.
“People are so used to using their cellphones for everything,” he said. While users need not pay admissions to any of the museum sites, Kopecky hopes they will enter or return. There are no charges to call the number, other than whatever program users already have for their own calling plans.
Although the tour was planned to travel through areas where cellphone service was available in the rural county, users will have to stand outside the Old Stone Fort to get the message.
The stone walls of the 1777 building are 2 feet thick, Kopecky notes. “Cellphones won’t work inside,” he said.
The idea is that the messages will entice visitors to enter the fort’s thick wooden doors and see the Colonial-era artifacts, weapons, implements, clothing and other local historical displays, Kopecky hopes.