By Jan Landau Lewin
Ron Gural suspected his Buckhead condo stood near the sites of Civil War battles.
However, it wasn’t until the Atlanta History Museum unveiled its new exhibit, “War in Our Backyards: Discovering Atlanta, 1861-1865,” that he was able to confirm his suspicions. He verified that his condo on Peachtree stands in what was once the Union army’s path as it marched south to battle with Confederate troops in what is now Tanyard Creek Park.
For years, visitors to the museum have wanted to know more details about which specific areas in Atlanta were involved in the Civil War. In response, the museum has used the most advanced technologies in this new multimedia exhibit to connect Atlanta’s past and present.
“This mapping technology is so great,” said Gural, a self-proclaimed Civil War buff who moved to Atlanta from New Orleans. “You can actually see the affected areas throughout the city.”
The exhibit also contradicts the myth that the whole city was destroyed by Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union army. For the first time, visitors will be able to view the exact areas damaged by the war, and those that remained intact, and see what is on those sites today.
Through many sources and seven eyewitness accounts, the Union’s encampments and planned encampments are marked completely for the first time in the interactive display. Army movements, skirmishes and major battles, as well as original battle plans, are also on display.
Gordon Jones, senior military historian and curator, believes that the new interactive mapping feature is the beginning of something very big for the museum. “While right now you may view basic military movements, over time more content will be added,” he said.
Jones is also quick to point out that the newest photographic technology plays an important role in understanding history. Now that photographs can be scanned at such high resolutions, historians and visitors can view details that weren’t visible before. The new exhibit displays well-known photographs from the 1860s in large format so visitors may examine the same details.
There is also a new 3-D video program that allows visitors to view photographs of the city with overlays of how the city looks today. The new exhibit was designed to complement the museum’s permanent exhibition, “Turning Point: The American Civil War.”
The new exhibit at the museum, located at 130 W. Paces Ferry Road, adds to the permanent collection the only known copies of the original drawings used as a basis of the Atlanta Cyclorama paintings. It also includes furniture from the home thought to be the site where Sherman slept during the siege of Atlanta. Also on display are Sherman’s original hand-written instructions to his men regarding the necessary evacuation of civilians from Atlanta.
The exhibit will eventually become part of the permanent display.