Run through the Jungle in South Dakota with Photo Wall Murals

Printed Museum DisplayThe Armed Forces Military Display and Gifts museum in Wasta, S.D., is more than a museum; it is a re-creation of the environments and elements in which America’s wars were fought.

The museum’s curator, Tom Rancour, goes to great lengths to infuse each display with as much reality as possible. The various military equipment and arms displayed at the museum – from the personal items soldiers carried in the field to airplanes and tanks – represent the culmination of years of painstaking collection by Rancour and items generously donated by veterans and their families.

In order to better set the scene for the museum’s recent displays that incorporate the environment in which the original equipment would be typically found, Rancour has been using Photo Tex (EX) – Aqueous Printers from LexJet for photographic wall murals.

The first wall mural depicted German field equipment used in World War II, a project we covered a couple of months ago at the LexJet Blog.

Museum GraphicsThe most recent display features equipment and uniforms typically used in the jungles of Vietnam. The wall mural printed on Photo Tex creates the jungle surroundings, as well as artificial palm trees, bamboo and a Ficus tree Rancour bought at Michael’s craft store.

“I found two jungle pictures at a stock photography site and merged them together in Photoshop so you couldn’t see where they merged. I enlarged it to eight feet to cover the corner room where the display is located,” explains Rancour. “The Photo Tex EX was easy to apply, including the outside corners, in one piece. I made sure the corners were nice and plumb and square, because if they weren’t it would be difficult to apply it without cutting the material to size. On the outside corners I peeled the material horizontally rather than vertically, which made it easier for that part of the application.”

Rancour applied the Photo Tex to five different wall sections in the corner room in two panels. The total size of the mural is about 8′ x 26′. Rancour adds that instead of taking a security sensor off of the wall, he cut around it and applied that piece to the sensor’s cover. “You don’t notice it; it blends right in,” he says.

“I used the EX version of Photo Tex because of the wall surface, which is a lightly textured eggshell. I didn’t have any problems when I tested the regular Photo Tex on it, but to be safe I went to the EX because it was a minimal extra cost to do it,” he adds.

Rancour’s next project will be a British military desert scene from World War II for which he’s currently looking for appropriate photography to use for the surrounding wall mural.

Inkjet Printed Wall Murals Illustrate Military History

Photo Wall Mural

It’s one thing to learn about World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam on the Military Channel, but quite another to see the actual equipment and weaponry and rare photos from those conflicts in person. Tom Rancour, who’s an engineer by trade, is the curator of the privately-owned Armed Forces Military Display and Gifts museum in tiny Wasta, S.D., which is near Rapid City.

Photo Wall Mural at a MuseumThe museum is located right off I-90 with visibility that helps ensure curious passersby stop in to see the impressive collection of military memorabilia, much of it drawn from Rancour’s personal collection. As an engineer, Rancour is used to printing in large format with an HP3500CP, but mainly for CAD drawings and renderings.

Creating large murals that help shed additional light on the various displays, however, is another matter entirely. Rancour wanted to include two rare photos from his private photo collection that would tie into a display of German field equipment used in World War II.

“I looked for a year and a half for a material I could apply to the wall to avoid hanging photos in the back of that display case. When I found Photo Tex at LexJet I was so relieved because it saved a lot of headache on how to hang that material,” says Rancour. “Those photos are originally 1 1/2″ x 2”. I scanned them with an Epson scanner and then printed them on the HP printer using the HP Standard Coated Paper setting, and that seemed to do the trick.”

Armed Forces Military Display and Gifts Museum
The Armed Forces Military Display and Gifts Museum in Wasta, S.D., has an amazing collection of arms, equipment and uniforms from past wars.

Rancour adds that the quality of German photography from that era was head and shoulders above what the Allies were producing, thus allowing the images to be blown up to life-sized wall murals.

“You can’t argue with a photo for accuracy, and much of what’s on display is also in the photo,” says Rancour.

Rancour was relieved to find Photo Tex because the material is almost infinitely repositionable and doesn’t tear the paint off the wall. Rancour decided to use Photo Tex EX instead of the regular Photo Tex since the EX version has an adhesive that’s 40-45 percent stronger.

Armed Forced Military Display and Gifts Museum
The museum’s collection includes items from all the major players in past wars, such as this display of Soviet weaponry from WW II.

“It was easy to apply with just about the worst condition you could have on a wall: an eggshell textured surface. I went to the EX because I was concerned about that. The standard Photo Tex probably would have worked, but better safe than sorry, and it’s only a few dollars difference between the two,” says Rancour.

Rancour adds that he used a self-leveling visible laser level on a mast tripod to align the mural panels at the top. “I used my hands and a wallpaper brush to smooth out the material. A razor blade was used to cut off the unprinted margins on a cutting table, and to cut around the wall switch, security sensor and outlet openings,” he says.

So, if you’re in the Rapid City area, be sure to drive out to Wasta and check out one of the few privately-owned and funded military history museums in the Midwest.