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They call them Megagraphics
by Tom McCall

How large is a photographic print when its called a Megagraphic?  Recently Dan Brant, Dennis Hafer and I were fortunate to see a few Megagraphic prints and found that they are really BIG. 

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph will have several of these Megagraphic prints on display in their exhibit "Working Waterfronts: Planning & Preserving the Maritime Traditions of St. Joseph & Benton Harbor".  The exhibit opens Friday March 27th. 2009 and continues through March 2011.

We received permission for the opportunity to observe and photographically document the installation of two (2) of the Megagraphics.  Of the Four (4) Megagraphics in the exhibit, the largest is of a photograph (donated Courtesy of the Twin City Camera Club, Photo by Tom McCall) that nearly covers the entire South wall in the exhibit gallery.  It is the cropped image below sized to fit the required format similar to a panoramic.  

The Megagraphic print is 84"x 216" (7 feet by 18 feet) and is a photo of the 634 ft. Self-Unloading Bulk Freighter "Buffalo" as it approaches the Blossomland Bridge.  It was taken on the evening of September 25, 2006 just before 8 pm.  This was the evening that the TCCC members were on a fieldtrip at the Upton Arboretum to take photos for a select subject that required the photos be taken within the Arboretum boundaries.  If you look in the cutout below, taken from the original photograph, you can see a group of the TCCC members taking photos from the location of where the old State St. Bridge crossed the river.


Cutout showing TCCC members at the Upton Arboretum.




The Megagraphic required Six (6) printed panels (shown below rolled out on the floor) two of which were the same (the narrow panels) except for a slightly different coloration.  Only one of them was used in the finished Megagraphic.  They were printed on a commercial grade fabric backed vinyl wallpaper material in panels a little over 4 feet wide and a little over 7 feet tall to allow space for trimming.  

Karen J. Dunn owner of Professional Paperhanging/Design from Saugatuck, who has been doing this for thirty (30) years, was contracted to do the installations.  She spent a half day preparing the walls to get them ready for the prints and then returned the next day for the installation.  It was very interesting to watch as she prepared the large panels, which had to be cut and trimmed on one side to have a straight edge for the proper alignment.  The walls had been prepared and coated with a wall preparation the day before and now they were coated with an application of paste to provide the necessary time to work with the panels.  The panels were coated with an adhesive paste and then carried to and placed on the wall, pushed, nudged and pulled partially back off and on to get the proper alignment, then smoothed and worked to get all of the wrinkles and air bubbles out.  The next panel slightly overlaps the first panel (each panel was printed with a 1/2 inch overlap for this purpose) and after making sure that the panels are aligned, level and plumb, it is smoothed and worked to remove the wrinkles and air bubbles.  Then the overlap is trimmed from both panels and the panels are nudged and smoothed to eliminate the appearance of the line where the panels are joined. 




The process is not something to be rushed and is checked constantly for the proper alignment and it was amazing that the panels could be pulled off and re-adjusted. Karen Dunn said the adhesive paste is designed to provide time to make the adjustments and the panels were strong enough and of a thickness that permitted that type of installation.




The Megagraphic print after the installation.




The Megagraphic print as it is seen now in the display has some informational display panels added to it on both ends.




Immediately on your left as you enter the exhibit gallery is an image by Penrod/Hiawatha that is 71"x 81" (just under 6 feet by 7 feet).  Dan Penrod tells me that he received a call from the Heritage Center and that they wanted to use an image that they had found of one of the Penrod/Hiawatha postcards.  Dan said that he spent several hours preparing and sizing the image to have it printed that large.  In the images below, Karen Dunn is installing the Penrod/Hiawatha Megagraphic.



The Penrod/Hiawatha Megagraphic had two (2) panels.  One full size and one that was about a half size panel.  The preparation and installation was the same for both of the Megagraphics.  The large Megagraphic took over four (4) hours to install and the smaller Penrod/Hiawatha Megagraphic took about an hour.




The finished Penrod/Hiawatha Megagraphic.  Just imagine from a postcard size image to a Megagraphic print.




Also in the exhibit are three (3) additional photographs (donated Courtesy of the Twin City Camera Club, Photo by Tom McCall) that are included in some of the other display panels in the gallery.




We would like to express our thanks to the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center staff for their kindness and assistance in permitting us access to the exhibit gallery during what had to be a busy time for them preparing a major exhibit.


  We would also like to express our thanks to Karen Dunn for her thoughtfulness and kindness in explaining the process of the Megagraphic installations and answering all of our questions.  It was a real treat to watch her work.  She was every bit a professional in the way she went about her work and it was obvious that she knew what she was doing.  




The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center is located at 601 Main Street, St. Joseph.   Please call 269-983-1191 for more information.  Hours Tuesday-Saturday, 10-4.  From June to September also open on Sundays from 12-4.  Visit their website at:







Additional SHADOWS AND HIGHLIGHTS - Archive Pages:

 - Death of Member Will Hayes

     - Death of Member Ralph Harju

   - Life Member John Penrod Honored for 50 years in business

   - They call them Megagraphics - You are Here

    - Amber and her Gorilla

   - Ken McKeown featured in local publication

          - Lauren Strach featured in local paper

          - Curtis Drake featured in local paper




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