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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

March 9, 2007

A wireless tour of art on campus

by Samantha Beres

The Digital Art on Campus Project created the Web-based tour. It includes narration on 15 works of art and provides the equivalent of checking out one of those audio tour guides in a museum.

"It's a created walking tour," said Allison Sheridan, University Museums program coordinator. "It's not meant to be utilized in place of seeing the works of art, but alongside the works of art."

You can, however take the tour right on your computer. At the Digital Art on Campus Web site, there is a video presentation of the tour. (The video is not downloadable).

History of Dairying Mural

History of Dairying Mural, located in the courtyard of the Food Sciences Building, is one of 15 pieces featured in University Museums' Digital Art on Campus Project. A downloadable narration gives viewers - virtually or in person - information on the history behind many popular pieces at ISU. Photo courtesy of University Museums.

"Some people want to tour our campus because we're known as one of the top in the nation for public art. Even if they live far away, the DAOC Web site gives them a chance to have that experience virtually," Sheridan said.

The fact that you can find and take the tour on the Web means it can reach people all over the world, said Iowa State senior Grant Thompson, who created the tour. Thompson, who majors in horticulture and landscape architecture, came up with the idea while he was making his way through European museums in 2005, relying in part on audio tours. Back on campus, he shot the film and narrated the segments as his Honors project.

"Signage is often used as a way to explain the intentions or philosophies of art and icons, and I think wireless technology has become an emerging avenue to explain those ideas," Thompson said.

Each narration is about five minutes long and gives good basic information, such as the artist's name, how the work of art was made and the story behind it. For instance, Christian Petersen's wife inspired him to create the sculpture of George Washington Carver after she read Carver's biography. And, the symbolism of Aequanimitas, an installation in the LeBaron courtyard, demonstrates the production and distribution of food.

There are more than 550 major works of public art on campus and the tour was narrowed down to what Sheridan called hot spots - a student favorite is Left Sided Angel and alumni are keen on seeing Christian Petersen selections. The works of art are all circled around the central campus green space.

"It's all very, very walkable," Sheridan said. "I think most people enjoy walking on campus and this really allows them to do that with information on the art readily at hand."

"I think it's important for people to have an understanding of the culture and the history and the people that shape any place," Thompson added. "Obviously Christian Petersen is very influential to the landscape and aesthetics at Iowa State."

Thompson will add two more works of art to the tour. The completion of these will coincide with the opening of the new Christian Petersen Art Museum in Morrill Hall on March 22.

This digital project is part of the Art on Campus program. Iowa State is home to one of the largest campus public art programs in the United States with more than 2,000 works of public art located across campus in buildings, courtyards, open spaces and offices.


"Some people want to tour our campus because we're known as one of the top in the nation for public art. Even if they live far away, the DAOC Web site gives them a chance to have the experience virtually."

- Allison Sheridan, University Museums program coordinator