University of Pittsburgh
October 24, 2006

New Pitt Legacy Gallery Celebrates Alumni, Faculty, and Student Achievements

Two artful 10-feet tall by eight feet in diameter interactive kiosks tell of Pitt's past and present, through faculty and alumni profiles
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh has artfully blended the gracious architecture of its historic Alumni Hall with the latest technology, resulting in an innovative, permanent addition to the building's grand lobby. The Legacy Gallery—two 10-feet-tall interactive, curved touch-screen displays, Pitt in the World and The Pitt Experience—reveals the story of the University and its people in unfolding layers, with the touch of a hand.

"There are so many great stories to tell about Pitt people," said University Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. "And the Legacy Gallery has made the 'Pitt story' more accessible and even more powerful by helping us to communicate it in a clear, compelling, and completely engaging way."

The displays merge aesthetically with Alumni Hall, formerly the magnificent Masonic Temple, designed by renowned architect Benno Janssen and constructed in 1914-15. It was acquired by Pitt in the 1990s and underwent a thorough renovation, under the guidance of the University's Office of Facilities Management.

The eight feet in diameter cylindrical exhibits designed by ThoughtForm, a Pittsburgh-based design company, are the only ones of their kind in the United States, and, according to ThoughtForm, most likely, in the world. The six interactive touch-screen panels, plus one smaller interactive screen, are encased in hardwood, brass, and bronze in keeping with the building's architectural components. The exhibits' content—more than 1,700 photos combined with text and video—is rear-projected on curved glass touch screens.

Visitors can look up more than 200 illustrated, interactive profiles of alumni, faculty, students, and programs covering Pitt's 220-year history. The stories are organized in such categories as "Arts & Entertainment," "Sports," "Medicine," and "Public Service & Law." An animated time line locates each individual or program historically. The technology also allows for future profiles to be added.

According to Leland D. Patouillet (EDUC '00G), associate vice chancellor of Alumni Relations, the concept for the display arose when Nordenberg and Provost James V. Maher, in the late 1990s, toured the space that was to become an Alumni Hall of Honor. They wanted those who contributed to the University's story, like Jonas Salk and Gene Kelly, to be remembered.

"The University of Pittsburgh enjoys a long and proud tradition," said Patouillet. "The Legacy Gallery provides the visitors with an opportunity to learn firsthand about the Pitt experience today and the many accomplishments of some of the University's most illustrious alumni."

Keith E. Schaefer (CAS '71), immediate past president of Pitt's Alumni Association, was on the original committee that eventually determined what the legacy envisioned by the chancellor and provost would be. He said that, over time, the idea evolved from having a display of static photographs to the cutting-edge technology employed today. The final product had to reflect the image, style, and feel of the building and to look like it had always been a part of it, said Schaefer.

"Jean Ferketish (KGSB '81, EDUC '92), Pitt assistant chancellor and secretary to the Board of Trustees, deserves much of the credit," said Schaefer. "She was the captain and leader on the project and always kept it moving forward."

"I'm most excited that we were able to grow a concept that embraced the entire University—students, faculty, administrators, and the more than 285,000 alumni," said Schaefer. "I commend the University for its forward thinking, to allow technology to enhance the Pitt experience, to have the displays in such a prominent place, and to have created exhibits that let people experience, learn, and explore in such a personal way."