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Museum of American Armor to reopen Friday

Digital military historian Erik Villard repurposed World War

Digital military historian Erik Villard repurposed World War II motivational imagery, replacing a grenade with hand sanitizer, to create a poster promoting defeating COVID-19. Credit: U.S. Army Center of Military History / Erik Villard

Ten-hut! Uncle Sam wants you — to visit the Museum of American Armor at Old Bethpage Village Restoration.

At least, that's what museum officials said Monday as they announced the site will reopen to visitors Friday with a slew of pandemic protocols in place.

The Armor Museum released a handful of posters in connection with the socially-distanced reopening. One features a face-masked Uncle Sam under a sky filled with World War II Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers and over a field of charging soldiers and a slogan that reads: "Defeat COVID-19!"

Two others depicts soldiers tossing bottles of hand sanitizer with the slogan: "Let 'Em Have It." Still another poster reads: "Defend American Health, It's Everybody's Job."

The posters are a takeoff on wartime bond-era art.

Museum officials said the art is the work of Erik Villard, the digital military historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., and called the art "his innovative reinvention of motivational posters first created by the War Department during World War II." They will be on display at the museum for the reopening.

Villard said he was inspired while working from home during the pandemic. As someone who is very active on social media, he was "seeing all the anxiety that’s affecting the country," and wondering "is there something I could do as an Army historian that can help?"

The historian, who says he does "a lot of other things like graphic design, web production, in addition to being a normal historian," has been working for the past seven or eight years with art and posters. Villard said with the recent 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and this year's 75th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II, he has collected a lot of these posters. 

Villard said he applied his Photoshop skills and imagination and tried to "choose posters where the message was compatible, where I would wind up changing some of the words on the poster or some of the visual elements of the original posters" and apply those to the coronavirus crisis by subtly tweaking the message.

The museum is home to dozens of wartime armored vehicles including a Sherman tank, a Stuart light tank used by the Marines in the Pacific Theatre in World War II, a 155 mm howitzer, reconnaissance vehicles, Jeeps, weapons carriers, halftracks, an M47 Patton tank, an M60 Patton tank and even a replica German Tiger.

The museum reopening comes after a four-month pandemic-dictated shutdown — and social distancing measures will be in place for visitors.

For more information call 516-454-TANK or go online at Info@MuseumOfAmericanArmor.com.

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