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Mammoth "Cyclorama" Painting at Gettysburg To Be Restored To Original Glory

Largest U.S. Painting Restoration Project Expected to Take Three Years


GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Restoration work begins next month on the painting known as the Cyclorama, the colossal circular work of art at Gettysburg National Military Park. The painting, entitled "The Battle of Gettysburg," is
deteriorating rapidly and is in need of immediate repair.

"The Gettysburg Cyclorama is one of America's unique treasures," said
Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation President Robert C.
Wilburn. "This critical restoration project will ensure that this important
painting is preserved for future generations, and will allow visitors to
Gettysburg to experience it the way it was originally intended."

The painting, which depicts the heroic charge of Confederate infantry led
by General George Pickett on July 3, 1863, currently measures 359 feet by
27 feet and weighs three tons. It will be restored in stages and is expected to take three years to be fully restored to its original state, making this the largest painting restoration project ever undertaken in North America.

The restoration is being directed by the Gettysburg Museum Foundation, as part of its $95 million partnership with National Park Service at
Gettysburg to build new museum and visitor facilities, restore portions of
the battlefield and preserve the park's extensive collection of Civil
War-era archives and artifacts. The project will cost more than $9 million;
of that, Congress has appropriated $5 million. The fully restored painting
will be moved in late 2006 into the new museum and visitor facilities, in a
state-of-the-art gallery with proper conditions for its preservation.

"When the painting was first displayed in the 19th century, the experience
was said to be so realistic that battle veterans wept," Wilburn said. "The
Cyclorama is considered to be the ' IMAX' of its day, but in reality, its
impact was much greater than that. We want to bring that experience back
for new generations of visitors.

"The Foundation will rely on contemporary accounts and photographs from
Gettysburg's archives to recreate the original three-dimensional diorama
and restore optical illusions that have been lost over the years," Wilburn
said. "Viewers of the Cyclorama will once again be able to lose themselves in the scene."

Painted in 1883-1884 by French master Paul Philippoteaux and a team of 20 artists, the original painting measured 365 feet by 42 feet, but moisture,
rot and fire have taken their toll over the years. Flawed hanging,
fluctuations in humidity and temperature, and multiple relocations also
have put added stress on the canvas, created new seams and bends, and
caused paint to chip.

An international team of conservators has been assembled for the project,
led by David Olin of Olin Conservation, Inc., of Great Falls, Virginia, and
Perry Huston of Perry Huston & Associates of Fort Worth, Texas. The team
also includes Hans de Herder, director of the National Photographic
Restoration in The Hague and chief conservator on the panorama Mesdag at
Den Haag, the Netherlands; and Andre Van Lier, architect and engineer on
the panorama Mesdag.

Olin, who recently directed the restoration of murals at the U.S. National
Archives, noted that the sheer size of the Gettysburg Cyclorama makes this
project about 10 times greater than the National Archives.

"The physical requirements for the painting distinguish it in complexity
from the typical large painting or mural," Olin said. Unlike earlier
restoration attempts, which often involved unflattering changes by other
artists, Olin and his team intend to provide a more historically accurate
restoration of Philippoteaux's work. This necessitated, for the first time,
an understanding of the science of the painting and its mounting system,
past attempts at restoration and display, and how best to preserve the
Cyclorama for future generations. The team's study has included multiple
and detailed examinations of the painting itself, along with study of
restorations undertaken on other historic panoramas and cycloramas around
the world.

The Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation is a nonprofit
educational institution working in partnership with Gettysburg National
Military Park to preserve the resources of the park, to tell the story of
the Gettysburg Campaign, and to give visitors a deeper, more lasting
appreciation for what happened here.


ABOUT THE RESTORATION


Preliminary conservation treatment and evaluation will begin in early
November 2003, and include cleaning, consolidation (securing loose
and flaking paint), and facing (applying an opaque supportive
material to the surface of the painting to ensure stability) on two
of the 27 panels of the three-ton, 359 foot by 27 foot painting.
Restoration of the painting will proceed in several phases. The first
will include cleaning the painting surface; removing over paint,
inserts and grime; dismantling the canvas; and removing the lining
and wax from the canvas back.

The second phase, to be performed in the gallery at the new
Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, will include shaping and lining
the painting sections and mounting them on a new support system,
which will maintain even tension throughout the canvas and allow the
painting to assume its natural hyperbolic shape.

The painting will be closed to visitors November 6, 2003 through
January 2, 2004, for the preliminary preservation treatment of two of
the 27 panels. When it reopens January 3, 2004, the two panels that
have been faced will still be hanging in the gallery, but will be
obscured by the opaque facing.
The Cyclorama Gallery will close again February 8, 2004 through March
2, 2004, while the conservation team painstakingly removes the two
"faced" panels for extensive restoration work. The painting, minus
the two " faced" panels, will reopen March 3, 2004. Restoration of the remaining panels of the painting begins in August 2004, when it will close to public view until late 2006, when the state-of-the-art Cyclorama Gallery opens in the new Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center.

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