Sunday, October 05, 2008

Gettysburg Cyclorama

A cyclorama was the cutting-edge multimedia installation of its time in the 1870-90s. A massive 360 degree painting in the round, it was often accompanied by narration, music, and a light show to heighten the illusion. Today I went to see the conserved, restored, and reinstalled Gettysburg Cyclorama at the new visitors' center. The center opened in April, but the Cyclorama only reopened 10 days ago.

I'm glad I went. True, you only get to spend 15 minutes in the Cyclorama gallery and you have to sit through a short movie about the battle first because the museum, movie, and cyclorama are on one ticket. The new museum is very nicely designed and installed (and extensive), the movie is not too long and very well-done, and the tickets are reasonably priced.

The painting (by Paul Philippoteaux, 1884) was installed in the new facility with its diorama foreground illusions recreated. They run a 15-minute narrated sound and light show to recreate Pickett's Charge (dawn over the battlefield is amazing), then they bring up the lights for a few minutes so you can see the entire painting clearly. In some spots the diorama leads seamlessly into the painting. It's still an amazing illusion and it takes your breath away.

The Cyclorama painting was previously housed in a Richard Neutra-designed building at Getttysburg. The Neutra building is scheduled for demolition in December 2008, but there is litigation to attempt to stop it. That will be a difficult case -- battlefield restoration versus Modern architecture preservation.

1 comment:

Chris Bourg said...

I vividly remember the cyclorama from a 5th grade field trip! I'll have to see the restored version next time I am on the east coast.