The historic Battle of Atlanta painting has been moved from its home in Grant Park to the new custom-built 23,000-square-foot Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building at the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead.
The transfer of one of the city’s rarest historic treasures, which debuted in 1886 and called the Grant Park facility home since 1921, was orchestrated by a team of Atlanta History Center staff experts and cyclorama conservationists. The team’s processes 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.
The painting, 42 feet tall with a circumference of 359 feet, is estimated to weigh 12,000 pounds. After it was carefully separated along two existing seams, the two 6,000-pound sections were successfully rolled around two 45-foot-tall custom-built steel spools.
Weighing roughly 6,200 pounds each, the spools were individually lifted out the Grant Park building by a crane through two 7-foot-square holes cut into the concrete roof. After being loaded on the backs of two flatbed trucks with the help of a second crane, they were trucked to the Atlanta History Center on Feb. 10. Cranes then carefully lowered the scrolls through a 10-foot-square opening in the roof of the new Cyclorama building.
Over the next several months, 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 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.
The Battle of Atlanta first opened to the public in Minneapolis in 1886 as a tribute to Northern victory and was moved to Atlanta in 1892. In the nearly 125 years that it has been on display in this city, it has been the subject of periodic reinterpretation. At times it was held up as a proud symbol of the capital of the “New South” rising from the ashes of Sherman’s destruction. It has also been viewed as an anachronism because of its interpretation associated with the philosophy of the “Lost Cause” and white supremacy.