Beyond the 20,000 students, faculty and staff who work and study on Grounds, the University welcomes more than 100,000 visitors to the Grounds each year. These visitors include the families of students and prospective students, alumni, athletes, scholars, scientists, government officials and tourists from around the world—all drawn to this National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The University Guide Service currently offers tours during the academic year, but the Office of the Architect is developing a plan to enhance visitors’ experience in the future.
The first phase of this two-phase, $210,000 project, which is about to launch, involves the development of digital presentations on the architectural and cultural history of the University and the Academical Village. The presentations will be shown in kiosks to be located in the covered passageway, or cryptoporticus, outside the Rotunda’s ground-level entrance, near the Offices of the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Architect for the University.
The presentations will expand over time, with the addition of information about the African-American experience in the early years of the University and ongoing preservation and restoration work in the Academical Village.
The second phase involves a redesign of the current visitors’ reception area on the first floor of the Rotunda, in the Lower East Oval Room. The new visitors’ center will grow and change over time with the addition of informational panels, objects and the interactive digital elements developed as part of Phase I.
The goal will be to engage, educate and inform visitors of the cultural and architectural significance of the Jeffersonian Grounds and of the founding of the University. Among its offerings, the center will present a feature-length documentary film on Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, including his contributions to American architecture, education and democracy.
The new visitors’ center, which also will keep visitors informed about the ongoing preservation and restoration work in the Academical Village, will be installed in conjunction with the renovation of the Rotunda and is slated for completion in spring 2016.