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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Scroll on! Cranes-taking effort rehomes massive Civil War painting

A crane lowers a portion of the Cyclorama, one of the world's largest paintings, on to the lorry (Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP)
A crane lowers a portion of the Cyclorama, one of the world's largest paintings, on to the lorry (Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP)

An enormous panoramic painting depicting the Civil War's Battle of Atlanta has been relocated to a modern exhibit hall after workers loaded it on to a flatbed lorry for the nine-mile trip to its new home.

Historians hailed the painstaking move as a milestone for the six-ton Cyclorama, one of the world's largest paintings, which was moved to the Atlanta History Centre from its long-time home in a building in the Georgia city's Grant Park.

The painting's vivid scenes of charging soldiers, rearing horses, battle flags and broken bodies stretch the length of a US football field when it is fully unfurled.

Created by the American Panorama Co in Milwaukee in the 1880s, the more-than 15,000 square foot painting is one of only two such panoramas on display in the nation.

The other one is at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

"The Battle of Atlanta is one of the crucial moments in the campaign that really determined the outcome of the war," said Gordon Jones, a military historian and the history centre's curator.

The Atlanta painting had long been housed in a corner of the city zoo, something of a historic oddity in a city whose modern persona is more entwined with civil rights than the Civil War.

To get the painting ready for the move, workers cut it at a seam into two pieces.

Both pieces were then rolled on to the two gigantic, custom-built steel spools, each scroll taller than a four-storey building.

Holes were carved in the concrete roof of the old Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum where it was housed for nearly a century and cranes then lifted the spools out.

The relocation effort began on Thursday and workers completed the move to the new exhibit hall on Friday night.

After a lengthy restoration process, the Battle of Atlanta is to go on display again next year in a new 23,000 square-foot building at the history centre.

A viewing platform rising 12ft above the gallery floor will offer "the sense of being enveloped by the 360-degree experience", the centre says.

The exhibit will also include the "diorama" featuring 128 plaster figures that had been displayed in the foreground of the painting since the 1930s.

Before the age of movies, the panoramas offered a 360-degree view of battles and other historic events, and their popularity gave rise to a lucrative business for painters.

The American Panorama Co hired many German immigrants to paint the giant scenes at the Milwaukee company.

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