Decorah, Iowa Kiosks

By Elizabeth Lorentzen, Decorah Historical Society Board

Our city has several outdoor kiosks that feature its historic architecture, its agricultural history and other areas of interest. The displays in these were not holding up to the extremes in temperature we experience here and the effects of heat and sunlight that filtered through the UV glass on each of the kiosks’ sides, particularly the south and west sides. I am the volunteer who maintains several of the kiosks and it was difficult to keep the displays looking presentable. The fabric used to back the displays faded in just several weeks’ time, the interpretive signs curled and separated from their backings due to the intense heat in the case, and the displays looked “down-at-the-heels” despite my best efforts to keep them looking good. Jeff Brown of The Perfect Edge in Decorah suggested Kent Foster, of Fostergraphs, as a resource to brainstorm solutions to this dilemma and contacted Kent for me. Kent happened to be just a block away and responded to our phone call by walking in the door of The Perfect Edge, one of the fastest responses I’ve ever had to a call for help! He suggested a process that involved printing the displays on PVC so I sent him the digital images of the historic houses featured in one of the kiosks, and he set to work.

Fostergraphs took the text and images, enhanced their quality, did an eye-catching layout, and printed it onto PVC vinyl media, mounted it to an aluminum substrate and coated it with a UV protective film. Voilà!—A professional, well-designed and well-crafted display that attracts the attention of  passersby, continues to stand up well to weather and temperature extremes, and looks fantastic even a year later.

Enter–different kiosk, same problem! This kiosk features 3-dimensional models as well as interpretive text and recounts the agricultural history of our area. It needed the same help with the fading, curling, cracking problems the backgrounds and text experienced because of intense sunlight and heat. Kent took vintage panoramic photographs provided by our local historical society, cropped them to fit the space, enhanced their quality, and did another well-designed layout for each side. He printed these with solvent-based ink on adhesive-backed fabric, cut the individual sides to size, and adhered them to the background boards in the kiosk. The results speak for themselves. He hadn’t even completely finished installing the displays before people were attracted to them and stopped to take a look!

The Fostergraph’s Sticky Critters® process effectively solved new problems in this kiosk, too. Each background surface is odd-shaped because of a decorative shelf bisecting each side. The adhesive-backed fabric can be adhered, then trimmed effectively to size, so unique shapes don’t present the problem that fitting conventional background board does. The solvent-based inks stand up well to heat and sunlight, and even if they should eventually fade, the backgrounds will be relatively easy to replace.

The public enjoys and comments on the museum-quality displays in the kiosks, the community organization that funded the displays are pleased our displays now “put their best face forward” at all times, and the volunteer (me) who fought a losing battle maintaining the kiosks before Fostergraphs came to the rescue couldn’t be happier!