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Tuesday, October 11, 2005
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GRID Lab partners with Smithsonian Institution on photo installation

ATHENS, Ohio (Oct. 11, 2005) -- The Smithsonian Institution and Ohio University have entered into a creative partnership designed to prepare a new media installation for the Smithsonian Institution's 2008 Year of the Image.

As part of the agreement, the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, an initiative of the College of Communication at Ohio University, will develop a menu of new media installation options to share some of the Smithsonian's 15 million archived photographs of historical and aesthetic importance. These options will be submitted for the Smithsonian's consideration and selection. The GRID Lab will work to implement the selected choices in consultation with the Smithsonian Photography Initiative team.

The partnership developed after Merry Foresta, who leads the Smithsonian's Photography Initiative, visited Ohio University in June. She met with President Roderick J. McDavis, Provost Kathy Krendl, College of Communication interim Dean Gregory Shepherd and other campus and community representatives.

"The Smithsonian Photography Initiative is very pleased to be working with Ohio University's GRID Lab," Foresta said. "It appears they are on the same wavelength with our goal to present photography much more creatively than in the past. As we prepare to launch our Web site and begin planning for Spectrum, a Smithsonian-wide series of photography exhibitions and public programs, I know the GRID Lab will help point us in the direction of innovation."

The project is one of the first secured by the GRID Lab, which was established in November 2004 by a partnership among the College of Communication, the Information Technology Alliance of Appalachian Ohio and the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. The lab will focus on the innovative field of gaming, which deals with the creation of interactive video games. It will also assist in developing the new gaming major at Ohio University and serve as an attraction in Athens, Ohio, and the surrounding region.

Interim Dean Greg Shepherd believes the GRID Lab and its capacity to form dynamic partnerships will have an impact on President McDavis' vision of making Ohio University a nationally prominent research institution.

"It is hard to imagine a more attractive partner than the Smithsonian," said Shepherd. "We are proud of this new association, grateful for the hard work that went into its formation, and excited about the work we will be doing with the Smithsonian -- work that will continue to build the college's reputation as a leader in communication arts, technology and sciences."

McDavis believes the partnership has the potential to boost Ohio University's national reputation.

"It is an honor for Ohio University to be associated with the nationally renowned Smithsonian Institution," McDavis said. "This partnership is another example of how the dedication and efforts of our faculty and staff are elevating Ohio University's stature as a national leader in research and education."

The Smithsonian Institution's brand is unparalleled, with a 94 percent brand recognition among adult Americans a first-place ranking for quality and trust by EquiTrend. It has been publishing scholarly and academic books since 1848. Smithsonian Magazine, in its 35th year of publication, is the most notable extension of the brand in publishing, with more than 7 million readers a month. It consistently ranks among the top three monthly consumer print magazines for overall quality. The Smithsonian attracts more than 20 million visitors to its 18 museums and 30 million visitors to traveling exhibits each year. In addition, more than 20 million unique visitors reach the Institution's various Web sites every month.

GRID Lab leadership on the project includes Director Karen Riggs, Associate Director John Bowditch and Director of Technology Ben Schneider. Riggs says the partnership was secured, in part, because the College of Communication has a traditional strength in storytelling. The partnership with the Smithsonian will involve an interdisciplinary team of faculty from various units at Ohio University including visual communication, engineering, education and communication systems management.

"I am excited about the opportunity this gives us to bring interactive digital technology development to the Southeast Ohio region with Ohio University as its centerpiece," Riggs said. "There will be opportunities to work with all kinds of public and private partners. The project will provide completely new technologies and applications of technology that will help establish Ohio University as a definitive leader in the field."

Bowditch believes the GRID Lab is well on its way to gaining national recognition as a clearinghouse for interactive media and its application.

"This reputation of excellence in the GRID Lab is our standard, and we're only going to improve upon it," he said. "Although the Smithsonian has partnerships with other major universities throughout the United States, the strength of our ideas and our passion at the GRID Lab led those at the Smithsonian to conclude that we would be the best choice for their new initiative."

Riggs said the early success of the GRID Lab is only the beginning.

"We welcome the opportunity to embark upon this creative collaboration with the nation's premium institutional 'brand,'" she said. "We're also embarking on a project with ties to the Department of Homeland Security, which effectively links us with the two most recognized brands in the country. Not a bad start."

The GRID Lab facility at 5 on Court Street in Athens will open in January 2006. Its research laboratory is already fully functional and a second part of the facility, a video arcade for community and Ohio University student use, is planned.

Smithsonian Institution and GRID Lab leaders currently are seeking sponsors for the media installation. To learn more about the Smithsonian Institution, please visit www.smithsonian.org.  

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Media Contact: Media Specialist Jack Jeffery, (740) 597-1793 or jefferyj@ohio.edu

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