University of Illinois Welcome Gallery Honors Alumni with Interactive Display Panels

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In October 2018, the University of Illinois Alumni Alliance (UIAA) unveiled the Richmond Family Welcome Gallery at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center in Urbana, Illinois. The Welcome Gallery showcases the University of Illinois’ rich history, traditions, and global impact through interactive, multimedia exhibits and serves as a destination for returning alumni and a gateway through which campus visitors–such as prospective students and their parents–can begin their Illinois experience.

Nominating Company: University of Illinois Alumni Alliance, Urbana, Illinois
Venue: Richmond Family Welcome Gallery at Alice Campbell Alumni Center, Urbana, Illinois
Project: Richmond Family Welcome Gallery at Alice Campbell Alumni Center
Category: Educational Environments

BACKGROUND
The UIAA developed the Richmond Family Welcome Gallery in recognition that the University had long needed a central location to honor its heritage and global impact. The Welcome Gallery is the culmination of five years of planning and was developed in collaboration with third-party designers and fabricators, University partners, and Illinois alumni themselves. Its major features include: 1) 14 Discovery Boxes, 10-foot by 5-foot themed display cases that tell stories about the University through artifacts as well as images, interviews, and short videos that are accessible via a touchscreen that spans the length of each case; 2) an Interactive Trailhead Map that displays the growth of the campus over the decades and offers turn-by-turn directions from the Alumni Center to any campus building; and 3) the Memory Space, five life-size, back-lit transparency panels that display large images of alumni and students, each sharing his or her personal story.

CHALLENGES
Given the scope and ambition of the original design, as developed by RhodesWorks, Ltd., it was clear from the beginning of the project that successful implementation would require a great deal of coordination between University and non-University partners and that the project’s initial and ongoing success would depend on the enthusiasm and acceptance of the University community. The design required a total of 58 touchscreen monitors for nine types of interactive exhibits, with each type requiring unique original software programming developed by a third-party media producer. The design also required content development for more than 130 exhibit topics, to be selected and curated by UIAA staff and RhodesWorks. Installation of this ambitious project had a firm deadline of the University’s Homecoming Week in October 2018.

memoryspacepanelSOLUTIONS
To address the coordination and content demands of the project, UIAA developed two working groups: 1) an exhibits team comprised of UIAA staff and retired University administrators that helped to select the first round of exhibit topics; and 2) an internal team that administered the project. Following the exhibit team’s topic selections, UIAA staff met with University partners to build excitement for the project and to determine strategies for collaborating on the exhibits. Exhibit content was developed based on those meetings. The internal team hired Boston Productions as media producer and technology provider and Xibitz as exhibit fabricator and integrator. The team closely monitored the accuracy and functionality of the vendors’ work through weekly meetings and occasional site visits and coordinated with the University’s Facilities and Services department to create a construction and installation schedule for the vendors and University staff that would meet the October 11 deadline.

RESULTS
The Richmond Family Welcome Gallery formally opened on Thursday, October 11, 2018, with a private reception for 300 people. An Open House the following weekend attracted nearly 1,000 guests, and in the two months since, more than 5,000 people have visited the gallery. Feedback about the Welcome Gallery has been overwhelmingly positive, with alumni, students, faculty, and staff of all ages sharing how much it means to them to see the University’s heritage displayed in such inspiring and beautiful exhibits. The Office of Admissions and Records has started using the space for its daily new student programs, and colleagues from throughout the University have reached out to UIAA staff to discuss collaborations on exhibits that will highlight their departments’ histories and contemporary achievements in ways that will entertain and educate visitors — and perhaps inspire a few future Nobel laureates to attend the University of Illinois.

PROJECT PARTNERS
RhodesWorks, Ltd. (Champaign, IL) – design firm
Boston Production, Inc. (Norwood, MA) – technology provider and media producer
Xibitz, Inc. (Grand Rapids, MI) – exhibit fabricator and integrator

The Richmond Family Welcome Gallery at Alice Campbell Alumni Center won a DSE 2019 APEX Award in the Educational Environments category.

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