Atlanta History Center Cyclorama

Atlanta, Georgia

Client:  Atlanta History Center

 

In order to preserve one of America’s treasured pieces of art, “The Battle of Atlanta,” MSTSD, architects in Atlanta Georgia, has designed a new museum for this significant piece of Americana. As one of the world’s largest paintings at 9 tons and longer than the length of a football field this painting depicting a significant battle of the civil war, will have a new home at the Atlanta History Center’s – Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building. This new museum will allow the painting to be viewed in its entirety for the first time since 1921. The new facility will provide a state-of-the-art conditioned space, regulating both temperature and humidity to prevent further deterioration to the painting, as well as a living environment for the painting to be restored. Planning the removal and transportation of this piece of artwork spanned two years and included a team of over 200 architects, contractors, countless specialists, historians, and art conservators.

For decades the painting was housed in a building troubled by leaks and temperature fluctuations. In order to abate further deterioration, the painting had to be removed from its current location where it has been housed since 1921 and moved to its new location at the Atlanta History Center. In order to achieve this feat a seven foot hole was cut into the roof of its Grant Park building. The ambitious engineering feat to move this painting entailed carefully dividing the painting into two pieces and rolling it onto two large spindles. Rolling the painting onto the spindles took the better part of ten days. Then the painting was wrapped and carefully lifted by two cranes, lowered into position onto two flatbed trucks and transported 12 miles to its new home at The Atlanta History Center.

In 1921, when the Grant Park Cyclorama was opened, it was quickly discovered that the building could not accommodate the painting. The solution, at the time, was to cut off a 6’ x 50’ portion of the painting in order that the painting fit inside the structure. An additional 4 feet of sky had been cut off of the painting as it was moved from location to location before finding its home in Atlanta. At the time when the painting traveled the countryside, contractors found it easier to cut the massive painting down from its hanging carriage, thus over time 4 feet of sky had been cut out of the painting. In its new home, the missing sections of the painting will be restored.

Among this new museum’s unique features include a 360 degree viewing platform, rising 12 feet above the gallery floor, offering guests the opportunity to view this 15,000 square foot painting as guests experienced it in the late 1800’s. Also, due to area zoning restrictions of a 35’ height limitation, the painting is recessed below grade to accommodate this 47’ high by 358’ long painting. As the building nears completion, the painting has been unspooled, hung on its specialized carriage system and art conservators have begun restoring all aspects of the painting, including cleaning, repainting damaged areas as well as recreating the missing sections. This restoration process will take approximately 2 years, during which time the painting will be on display.