‘Louie’s Legacy’ turns campus into walkable museum

Wilson Riles and Lawrence Walkup

Did you know Northern Arizona University’s J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome was originally called the “Ensphere,” or that the 400-pound Louie the Lumberjack statue outside the sports dome was originally created to hawk pancakes? Are you aware the Riles building is named for Wilson Riles, NAU’s first African-American student?

An evolving, self-guided digital tour of NAU’s Flagstaff campus is opening doors to its past to answer such questions.

Louie’s Legacy: The Mountain Campus QR Code Project is using QR codes at more than 105 buildings and objects on campus to connect people to NAU history through wireless technology.

“We’re turning our campus into a walking museum,” said Michael Amundson, a history professor and director of public history at NAU. “People can discover NAU history at their own pace, on their own schedule and on their own route.”

iPhones and tablets read history from the Louie’s Legacy QR codes at building entrances and reveal associated vintage photographs, oral interviews, original news stories, menus, signs and more. Each site provides cross-references to features such as “architecture” or “campus life.” Visitors can construct thematic tours as well, such as creating guided visits to public art or science buildings.

Students in NAU’s spring public history course are celebrating the south campus launch of the Louie’s Legacy project at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 28, at the “Benchmark” sculpture on south campus. NAU President Emeritus Gene Hughes will be on hand to commend Louie’s Legacy and the 50th anniversary of NAU becoming a university.

More information is available about Louie’s Legacy online.