The Substitute Sasquatch

In the state of Washington, The Wide Format Company helps replace the Renton History Museum's stolen banner.

Big Picture

For museums, exhibit banners are a key part of getting the word out about their frequently changing exhibits and other events. In Renton, Washington, however, the Renton History Museum found out that a well-done banner can attract the wrong kind of attention as well.

This autumn, when the museum hosted its “Bigfoot is Probably Real” exhibit – exploring “what we think we know about Sasquatch, and why we think we know it?” – museum director Elizabeth Stewart contracted with freelance designer Wil Samson to design a banner with bold graphics that would grab the attention of passersby and entice them to attend the exhibit.

She chose to work with The Wide Format Company in Bellevue, Washington, to produce a 4 x 10-foot exterior banner that would feature Samson’s graphics. The museum had worked with the print shop many times before, producing a number of wall murals and banners.

Banner output was done on the shop’s Mutoh ValueJet 1614 with Mutoh EcoUltra inks, onto 13-ounce scrim vinyl. Finishing comprised a one-inch hem around all sides plus grommets. The Wide Format Co. completed the banner and delivered it to the museum, where installation was done by the museum staff.

Just two months after the banner’s install, however, the museum received a phone call from someone whose car was stopped at the light right in front of the museum. The driver said she had just witnessed a man steal the banner in broad daylight on a busy street. “Later, a staff member figured out the thief must have scaled the wall to cut the ties holding the 10-foot banner so he could take it without damaging it,” says Stewart.

The museum staff filed a police report, of course, but they did not find the culprit or the banner. The theft was a major blow to the exhibit: “We are a very small museum with limited funds –$200 is a big chunk of our exhibit budget,” says Stewart. Outraged, Stewart posted on the Museum’s Twitter page, “Who steals a banner from a museum??? @rentonhistory just got robbed.”

Which is where an interesting Sasquatch tie-in enters the story.

When Marjorie Hastings, a Renton resident and marketing research analyst for the Seattle-based Pemco Mutual Insurance Company, saw Stewart’s tweet, she convinced her company to make an immediate offer on behalf of Pemco to cover the cost of a replacement banner.

Pemco’s decision, Stewart explains, was certainly a matter of community goodwill, but the “Bigfoot is Probably Real” exhibit also dovetailed nicely with the insurance company’s marketing “We’re a Lot like You” campaign: “It’s a very funny campaign consisting of profiles of stereotypical Pacific Northwesterners – “Socks and Sandals Guy” or “Skis in the Rain,” for example. One of these profiles is “Desperately Seeking Sasquatch,” featuring a bearded man in camo with binoculars, so they liked the tie-in with our exhibit theme. Whatever the reason, we were very appreciative!”

The Wide Format Company then rose to the occasion as well: “Everyone at our shop was shocked to hear that the banner was stolen and we decided to move the banner reprint to the front of our production schedule,” says Neil Johnston, the shop’s marketing director.

Two days after the original banner’s theft, the replacement was printed and installed, and the Bigfoot exhibit promotion was, well, back on firm footing.

Beyond the banner replacement, the museum’s S-O-S tweet also resulted in numerous other offers of assistance. These funds will be set aside for the creation of banners for future exhibits, says Stewart, as well as used in assisting with the digitization of the museum's audio-taped oral histories and films.

The Wide Format Company

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