Walking into the Michigan Union on a recent Friday afternoon, I looked down at my phone. It was suddenly October 1960, and on the steps a few feet in front of me, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy was challenging students with the idea of the Peace Corps. The bell tower then chimed, snapping me back into the present. On my way inside, I stepped over the plaque commemorating the event, wondering what else my MGoView app was going to teach me.
U-M’s School of Information created MGoView as a birthday gift to the University in honor of last year’s bicentennial. The aim is tie together the Bentley Historical Library’s archives and 21st century technology into an app tour of U-M that both entertains and educates. It allows for Wolverines, both on and off campus, to explore aspects of the University they might not have known about before. (Currently available in the App Store and Google Play.)
I will admit to being hesitant about reviewing the free app. I am not one for audio tours in museums; I like to explore places on my own. Nonetheless, I decided I should give it the benefit of the doubt. After all, it combines two things I love: history and U-M.
After downloading it, a menu pops up allowing you to choose whether you want to explore in person or virtually. Both options bring you to a map with 30 different places. (The list includes everything from the Diag to U-M’s power plant.) It then offers multiple ways to interact with each of them. There is audio; video, including historic film footage; archival photos; and even augmented reality.
The app makes it easy to poke around all the features. I was pleased with the definition of the pictures and the overall quality of the app. Even historic photos were gentle on the eye. So far so good, I thought as I began to play with it.
One in-person feature is a Google Maps registry fit for a Wolverine. It shows you where you are in relation to other University landmarks and how to get there. Those not on campus can feel like they are back in Ann Arbor as it offers a 360-degree street view of each place. With the swipe of a finger, you can also view photos and special features. If you explore in person, you will find icons at each location that pop up on the screen, leading you to more information.
I used the video function while walking across the Diag. The minute-long clip acts as a crash-course in the Diag’s history, describing how the current paved paths evolved from the natural routes carved out by students walking across campus in the 1800s. I learned how a professor planted trees on the Diag with students and how protests took place there in the 1960s. It’s just enough to inform and to intrigue you to read more later.
Then there is the augmented reality. Outside the now-closed Museum of Natural History (which will reopen in 2019 in the brand-new Biological Science Building), two woolly mammoth skeletons meandered out of the front doors.
Cruising around campus with my smartphone, I realized I felt like I was carrying history in my pocket. The app celebrates the last 200 years in a manner that excited me and made me swell with pride.
Looking out my bedroom window at the Big House, I suddenly became curious wondering what MGoView had to say about the stadium. To my pleasant surprise, it was the Wolverine broadcaster Bob Ufer’s legendary, optimistic voice. It rang through my ears. His words, partnered with my view, made me suddenly feel nostalgic for a time when I was not even a student at U-M. It made me think of my upcoming graduation this April and how, come September, this app will offer more than just augmented reality to a young alum like myself. It will serve as a tangible reminder of the legacy of U-M: the past, the present, and the future.
Senior Anna Haritos is an editorial assistant for Michigan Alumnus and the managing social media editor at The Michigan Daily.