Atlanta Cyclorama

Atlanta Cyclorama

History Comes Full Circle

Mayor Kasim Reed announced the relocation of the cyclorama painting in July 2014, on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta. The Atlanta History Center entered into a 75-year license agreement for the relocation and long-term preservation, restoration and maintenance of the painting, the Texas steam engine, and other artifacts.   

In a move of historic proportion and requiring a major feat of engineering, The Battle of Atlanta cyclorama painting moved in February 2017 from its Grant Park home to the new custom-built 23,000-square-foot Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building at the Atlanta History Center. 

The transfer of one of the city's rarest historic treasures, which has called its current Grant Park facility home since 1921, is being orchestrated by a team of Atlanta History Center staff experts, working with some of the best minds in the highly specialized field of cyclorama conservation. The team’s processes have included strength-testing the canvas, documenting the current condition of the paint layers and fiberglass backing, and conducting stabilization conservation efforts needed prior to moving the painting.     

Following the move, the painting will be unscrolled in its new home for a full restoration, including the re-creation of seven feet of sky across the top of its full circumference. The 128 plaster figures that are the focal point of the painting’s diorama, created also will be restored. The full Cyclorama experience, complete with the addition of the restored 1856 Texas locomotive and enhanced interpretation and exhibitions, is projected to open in fall 2018.     

Two exhibitions to be presented in the Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building will add thoughtful context about the battle for Atlanta and the Civil War as well as the history of cycloramas.     

The History Center will utilize a multitude of resources to interpret the painting, not only in the context of a single battle, but also in a national context of a country divided by war. This interpretation will consider the role of slavery in the Civil War, detailed military questions related to the country’s deadliest war, and the impacts of the conflict on American history. Reconstruction, segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, and a number of other social and political watersheds will be explored.

Restoration of the Texas, an important artifact of Atlanta’s early railroading days, and famed for its pivotal role in 1862’s Great Locomotive Chase, is expected to be completed by April 2017 at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Plans call for the steam engine to be installed in its Atlanta History Center gallery in May 2017 and open to the public in fall 2017.

All of these enhancements strengthen the Cyclorama as an important teaching tool. In its Grant Park location, approximately 12,000 Atlanta Public Schools students were granted free access to the Cyclorama each year. The History Center, which currently serves 50,000 school children annually, is committed to serving our public schools and providing teachers with a unique educational experience for the students. All Atlanta Public Schools 5th-grade students will continue to receive free annual school tours of the Cyclorama, as they did when it was located at Grant Park.  

Seeded by a lead legacy gift of $10 million from Atlantans Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker, the Atlanta History Center has raised $35.2 million for the project, including $10 million for an endowment that ensures the ongoing care and safe-keeping of The Battle of Atlanta painting and the other objects from the Grant Park Cyclorama over the 75-year agreement.  

Media Coverage

CNN
"How Do You Move History?"

The New York Times
"A Painstaking Mission to Save Atlanta’s Colossal Civil War Painting"

NPR
"Atlanta Rolls Up, Moves an Old Oil Painting - All 374 Feet and 12 Tons of It"

AP News
"How Do You Move a 6-ton Civil War Battle Painting? Slowly."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"The Cyclorama: How to Move a 6-ton Painting"

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