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Berkeleyan

A welcoming website for virtual tourists

27 April 2005


Following a cinema-style aerial arrival that deposits the viewer at Sather Gate, a detailed exploration of the campus's new virtual-tour website starts here.
UC Berkeley's new online tour, now prominently featured on the campus home page, was launched by Public Affairs on Friday, April 22, and the accolades from berkeley.edu-watchers have been arriving steadily since.

"Congratulations for developing an online tour that's (almost) as great as our beloved university," wrote Joe Gillanders, Engineering '86, '88, and Haas '99, in an e-mail. "What an inspiration for students! Every high-school freshman should be directed to take a look."

The tour, which is viewable at www.berkeley.edu/tour, makes its debut at a time when newly admitted prospective students are making their decision about which university to attend. The product of months of work, the new tour was created by the four members of Berkeley's Public Affairs web team as a replacement for the existing slide show, which was not only static but, at five years old, beginning to show its age.

The tour begins with a cinematic "trailer" that zooms over the rooftops of Berkeley and into the Campanile, before dissolving into a crowd of students passing through Sather Gate. Visitors can then either watch a comprehensive, self-guided slide show of the university or head directly to one of the four feature sections of the tour: Meet the Students, Get to Know the Faculty, Explore the Campus, and Discover Life@Berkeley.

In preparing to design the tour package, web manager Jeffery Kahn, NewsCenter editor Steve McConnell, designer Melani King, and reporter Bonnie Powell combed Public Affairs' archives for recent images, collecting materials that would welcome, inform, and entertain everyone from first-time visitors to current members of the Berkeley community. In addition, they created a portfolio of original content for the site: pages highlighting Berkeley's Distinguished Teachers, the breadth of research conducted here, famous alumni, and campus traditions ranging from the contemporary (the annual Big Game Axe Rally) to those long faded from memory (Pajamarino, anyone?).

But it's the slide show, with 13 sections featuring more than 30 iconic images, that's the star of the new tour. Taking as its model the high-energy, informative live tours led by student guides from the Visitor Center, the slide show combines facts - the size of the central campus (178 acres), the number of current Sloan Fellows here (70) - with fun (links to campus webcams, a slide show of distinguished trees). Gorgeous new photographs by Bart Nagel, Genevieve Shiffrar, Peg Skorpinski, the Public Affairs web team, and others capture the beauty of the campus and the range of its offerings.

"I'm not sure a website can glow," says Kahn, "but this site shows that UC Berkeley is a bright, shining place like no other. We hope the light it casts on the campus will help continue to attract the best to Berkeley. And we hope that campus departments and centers will link to and feature the tour on their own websites."

Even those who know the campus well have been curious enough to take a look. "I'm a Cal alumnus (and current law student at UCLA), and I have just seen the new online campus tour for the first time," wrote Mike Heinrichs '03 in an e-mail. "It has a fantastic amount of content and is organized extremely well. It really does look wonderful!"

The tour will continue to evolve with additional new audio and video elements, and an interactive map in the works. Public Affairs invites visitors to send comments and feedback about the new site via e-mail to ucbwww@berkeley.edu.