MU offers free audio tour of campus

Friday, September 16, 2011 | 4:37 p.m. CDT; updated 5:47 p.m. CDT, Sunday, October 16, 2011

COLUMBIA — While walking around MU, visitors might notice a set of signs that went up earlier this fall. The small black signs mark the 16 sites included on the new Mizzou Audio Tour.

The tour takes visitors on an hour-long stroll circling Francis Quadrangle. Visitors can learn about each site by calling the phone number listed on the signs. Tour maps are available online, and printed copies can be found at the Reynolds Alumni Center or in the visitor center in the rotunda of Jesse Hall.

If you go

To begin, call 573-629-1364 to hear a welcome message, as well as a few basic instructions. Next, dial the site number followed by the # sign, and the appropriate recorded message will play.


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The audio tour uses technology created by Guide by Cell, a San Francisco company that organizes tours for museums.

While the tour is free, it does cost users mobile phone minutes. The recorded messages average two minutes in length.

Visitors can explore at their own pace and stop at sites in any order they choose.

"People are using their mobile phones to satisfy their curiosity — that’s exactly what we’re doing here," said Clyde Bentley, an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism who came up with the system of using cell phones. "This gives them a chance to hear the story behind these places."

The project is a collaboration of several university departments participating in the Pride of Place Campus Heritage Network, including University Affairs and Campus Facilities. For the first year, the Mizzou Alumni Association is sponsoring the tour.

The first planning meetings for the tour were held over the summer, and the project took shape in a matter of months.

"The reason we wanted to get it up and running was we wanted to promote it as alumni come in for the Centennial Homecoming," said David Roloff, the alumni association's director of Membership and Marketing. "We just think that it’s going to be a great opportunity for people to rediscover campus."

Bentley approached the Heritage Network with the idea, using his research on mobile phones and his audio tour of the benches along the MKT Trail to demonstrate how the on-campus tour would work.

"What was important was to make it available to as many people as possible,"Bentley said, pointing out that users don’t need a smartphone to access the tour.

For now, the voice of Nathan Hurst, convergence media manager at the MU News Bureau, will guide callers through the tour. However, there’s talk of getting Chancellor Brady Deaton to record the introduction and alumni to record the messages for specific sites, Roloff said.

Commentary includes basic facts, bits of history and useful information such as hours of operation for specific sites. The messages will also “uncover secrets,” which include student traditions and university legends, according to the tour's website. For example, students commonly dress the statue of Thomas Jefferson in a party hat to celebrate his April birthday.

In the future, the tour might expand to include other notable locations and landmarks on campus, including Memorial Union, Tiger Plaza and Memorial Stadium, Roloff said.

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