Herron offers 'one-of-a-kind' Google 360 virtual tour of art school

  • Oct. 1, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- Herron School of Art and Design has gone virtual in a way that no other American art school has.

Located at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Herron School of Art and Design offers a one-of-a-kind virtual tour using Google 360 -- a Google Maps functionality that allows 360-degree panoramic views of building interiors.

The Herron virtual tour features Eskenazi Hall, the school’s main academic facility at 735 W. New York St., and Eskenazi Fine Arts Center, 1410 Indiana Ave. In the future, clickable video will be added to the current interactive tour photos and floor plans.

“We were looking for a way to reach out and engage new and prospective students,” said Herron multimedia specialist Justin Escue. "This allows them to experience the Herron buildings in a more interactive way as opposed to static images."

Navigating the online tour via directional arrows and/or circular footsteps, visitors can stroll through the halls of the buildings and into classrooms, galleries and workshop spaces. Visitors may also walk across campus from one Herron building to the other during the virtual tour.

The tour is the collaborative work of Escue, a 2006 IUPUI new media master’s level graduate, and Google-certified photographer Sergio Bennett, an Ivy Tech student who worked on the project as a Herron intern.

"This was the first university I photographed a tour for," Bennett said. "This one-of-a-kind tour took months of preparation and coordination. I was very impressed with how smoothly each department and student came together with such a team effort.

“This tour is unique in the fact that the students and faculty actively participated and created fun ways to bring the tour to life. I really enjoyed working with such a creative group of people.”

Herron faculty, staff and students had been requesting additional online tools that would provide opportunities for people to experience Herron facilities.

"It's one thing to see a beautiful photo of a building or department, but another entirely to be able to travel virtually down halls and around corners to really get a sense of the place,” said Glennda McGann, Herron assistant dean of development and external affairs.

“Judging by what we're seeing on social media, students who have never been to campus -- or Indianapolis for that matter -- love our Google 360 tour. We love being able to show off our beautiful and spacious facilities in this novel way.”

Planned upgrades of the tour include making the floor plans and video views interactive as soon as the technology is available, and incorporating pop-up features with messages and other information pertinent to enrollment, recruitment, etc.

“We are developing links to tie the tour to additional information about specific departments, for example, which will make this tour an even more versatile tool for people who want to know more about coming to Herron,” McGann said.

For now "the tour is a way to engage people over social media,” Escue said. “Plans are to make it a useful tool for recruitment.”

Visitors on the tour now encounter about 50 “Easter eggs” -- tour spots with entertaining surprises. For example, the elevator door on the second floor of Eskenazi Hall “opens” to show Herron faculty and staff members aboard wearing masks.

Since Google has to blur faces in its tours, sometimes faculty, staff or students are seen wearing masks as an alternative. Most of the photographs for the project, which took about three months to complete, were shot during the summer when most classes were out, therefore some spots of the building appear empty.

The current tour also offers a natural, everyday look at the buildings and their activities, as opposed to a staged, pristine look.

“The idea behind it is just to have fun with it, see what’s out there," Escue said. "We wanted to show the physical environment as it is."

Eskenazi Hall

Eskenazi Hall

Print Quality Photo

Diane Brown
Glennda McGann