Panoramic Precision

A Global Team Restored and Relocated a Gargantuan Piece of Art



The project was as ambitious as the artwork is gargantuan. Five years ago, the Atlanta History Center launched a privately funded US$35 million initiative to restore and relocate The Battle of Atlanta, a 133-year-old hand-painted panoramic artwork of the U.S. Civil War that spans 371 feet (113 meters). The room-filling cyclorama—one of only 19 such works that exist—also showcases three-dimensional figures in graduating scale along the base.

But before the team could move the 10,000-pound (4,536-kilogram) piece roughly 10 miles (16 kilometers) to its new home in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, it first had to assemble a team with the right know-how. That team would eventually span Swiss and German art experts with experience in cycloramas, architecture firms MSTSD and R.L. Brown & Associates, and a small army of engineers, truckers and riggers. In all, the team spent an estimated 18,000 hours working on the project.

Relocation also included building a new facility to house the painting, along with creating an educational program for visitors to more accurately understand the events of the battle. The painting, for instance, includes only one black person, despite hundreds having been involved in the battle.

Sixty-six designs were proposed and rejected before the team settled on a 23,000-square-foot (2,137-square-meter) cylindrical space. The artwork itself underwent extensive renovations as well. That included replacing nearly 3,000 square feet (279 square meters) of missing sections, which had been cut out over the years to accommodate smaller displays. The project also restored more than 100 of the 3D diorama figures at the base of the painting.

For transport, the cyclorama had to be rolled up, lowered into the open roof of the new facility, then unfurled. “I thought when they unscrolled it, it would be blank. Paint chips on the floor,” Atlanta History Center President and CEO Sheffield Hale told The New Yorker about his recurring fear. Instead, all was intact, and the project was completed—and open to tourists—in February.

—Sheffield Hale, Atlanta History Center, to The New Yorker



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