'Battle Of Atlanta': Georgia Moves Old Painting — All 374 Feet, 12 Tons Of It On Thursday, one of the world's largest oil paintings starts its trip to a new home. The immersive "cyclorama" puts viewers in the Battle of Atlanta, and is one of just a few of its kind in the U.S.
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Atlanta Rolls Up, Moves An Old Oil Painting — All 374 Feet And 12 Tons Of It

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Atlanta Rolls Up, Moves An Old Oil Painting — All 374 Feet And 12 Tons Of It

Atlanta Rolls Up, Moves An Old Oil Painting — All 374 Feet And 12 Tons Of It

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So maybe this happens to you - your kid makes an oversized painting, and you just don't know where to put it.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today people in Atlanta face that problem on an epic scale. They're moving one of the largest oil paintings in the world.

MARTIN: It is the size of a football field and depicts the Civil War Battle of Atlanta. Here's Sam Whitehead of Georgia Public Broadcasting.

SAM WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: As of late, the dark auditorium that's housed the "Battle Of Atlanta" for almost a century has turned into a construction site. There are piles of rubble and scaffolding high in the air, surrounding a massive oil painting known as the cyclorama, with scenes of Confederate and Union soldiers.

GORDON JONES: It's really not part (laughter) of normal art conservation that you see because this has primarily been an engineering challenge up to this point.

WHITEHEAD: Gordon Jones is with the Atlanta History Center. For the last few months, he's overseen preparations for the move. That's meant rolling up the towering, 130-year-old painting onto two, 45-foot-tall scrolls, each weighing about six tons. It won't be easy.

JONES: And then both scrolls will be lifted by crane through two holes in the roof. Then once outside of the building, they will be laid down flat onto flatbed trucks. And then we do the same thing to put them back into the new building.

WHITEHEAD: That new building is at the Atlanta History Center. The nonprofit struck a deal with the city, which owns the painting, to restore and display it for the next 75 years. Jones says it's a good move. Atlanta sheds the costs of upkeep, and the center can add historical context to a painting that's long been a symbol of Confederate heritage. Sara Velas is president of the International Panorama Council. She says panoramas were once popular entertainment. Think 19th-century IMAX movies. Now there are just three on exhibit in North America.

SARA VELAS: They did sort of fall out of favor once film was invented. So that's a huge reason why people don't really know about them so much anymore.

WHITEHEAD: But she hopes efforts to restore the "Battle Of Atlanta" might start to change that. The history center plans to have the painting back on display next year.

For NPR News, I'm Sam Whitehead in Atlanta.

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