Marcia Hocevar

Reflecting Community through Character and Identity

Community Library

A successful design concept we’ve incorporated in some of our libraries—one that is not only educational and decorative but also showcases the special identity and character of each community—is to visually display little-known or quirky images of the community’s past.

At Durango Public Library, we created a series of mural panels displaying 13 historical themes that contributed to shaping present-day Durango. The design intent of the mural was twofold: (1) to showcase some lesser-known local historical events and activities, and (2) to create a decorative frieze around the second floor of the library that would generate curiosity about the historical tapestry as well as highlight the identity and character of Durango and the surrounding areas.

BRS worked with the Durango Public Library staff to obtain usage rights of images from the collections at the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College, The Animas Museum, and the Denver Public Library. The themes were selected after viewing hundreds upon hundreds of historical photographs and organizing them into the following categories: Parade, Living, Trains, People, Learning, Round-Up, Ranching, Vaqueros, Racing, Mining, Vista, Our Town, and Our History. We carefully scanned the images using a high-resolution drum scanner, printed sepia-tone prints, and mounted them on panels that were then installed around the second-floor galleria space. The mural panels achieved both of our design goals, generating curiosity about the Durango’s history and providing a 360-degree decorative panorama.

We similarly used historical imagery at the Garfield County Library District’s Rifle Branch, albeit using a different technique. We wrapped the walls and windows of the main stair leading from the building lobby to the second-floor meeting spaces. The library staff selected images from the archives of the Rifle History Museum. A variety of these images was then selected with no overarching theme in mind, but all were rather quirky and unexpected: a girls’ basketball team, a group of gypsies, a high school band… One photo is applied to the glass of the community meeting room and provides a visual screen between the stair and the room’s interior without blocking the daylight. There, photos applied to the exterior glass are visible from both the interior and exterior of the library, acting as a teaser from the outside and inviting patrons to come in and explore.

Rifle Stair Mural Notes

Click to enlarge

The key to success for both of these mural projects was finding images that were engaging yet unfamiliar to most viewers: true historical gems unearthed from the archives. They also speak about what is most important within any community—that is, the people.

Having images digitally printed is easy and cost-effective. There are many reprographics companies that specialize in digital murals and prints. We have found the key to successful photo murals using historical photos lies in the quality of the scans used to produce the digital image. The scans must be of high enough resolution to allow for enlargements of sometimes 1,000%! Most reprographics companies can carefully scan original photographs to ensure the quality of the image meets expectations when printed. Images can be printed on variety of media, from canvas-like cloth to vinyl banners to wall-covering materials to translucent and transparent adhesive vinyl for glass applications. We’ve been thrilled with the results of these historical visual displays and look forward to discovering even more innovative applications in future projects!

Posted by Marcia Hocevar on January 3, 2013 at 06:35pm

Tags: signage (2), library (4)

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