Sep 18



One of the few photographs we were able to take after the program was over and the lights went down was this section of Arnold’s Battery A, 1st Rhode Island on Cemetery Ridge. Notice how the cannon in the foreground of the diorama, and the landscape, blends into the painting. This view was taken from the south facing north at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.

The Gettysburg Cyclorama painting restoration is a masterpiece. The diorama blends well into the painting. The special effects are good. However, the overall presentation of the Cyclorama program leaves much to be desired.

The Gettysburg Foundation wanted visitors to experience something similar to visitors in the late nineteenth century. One stands on a viewing platform that places the viewer with a line of sight that is level with the horizon, helping to immerse the viewer in the painting. Unfortunately, one can’t see the action at other parts of the painting because other visitors standing around the viewing platform are blocking the view.

When the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation were planning the Gettysburg Cyclorama program, they looked at the Atlanta Cyclorama program with its revolving grandstand. In Atlanta, visitors sit at different levels and are shown the whole painting. And they are shown the whole painting twice.

Unfortunately, the Atlanta Cyclorama revolving platform was rejected at Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, visitors are standing in one spot, and unless one moves from spot to spot and disturbs others around you, they cannot see the complete program. Even when they do move around, they still can’t see the complete program, or pay attention to the narration.

The Atlanta Cyclorama introductory film is 14 minutes long. The Gettysburg film is 22 minutes long. Another eight minutes to view the Gettysburg painting would be very helpful. That is probably why a $7.50 all inclusive “see the program as many times as you want to” charge is under consideration for the Gettysburg Cyclorama.



The problem with the presentation is that when you stand at your side of the painting, and attempt to view action in other areas, the other visitors looking at the painting in their area are blocking your view. This view was taken from the northeast facing southwest at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



Employees of the National Park Service, the Gettysburg Foundation, and Licensed Battlefield Guides lined up to view the first program shown to a large group. This view was taken from the southwest facing northeast at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



We were fortunate enough to be part of the first group. We entered the right auditorium to see the 22 minute film, “A New Birth of Freedom.” This view was taken from the south facing north at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



We saw the program. The blotches are dust settling. This view was taken from the west facing east at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



After the film, we went through a hallway past some large photographs on the walls. This view was taken from the southwest facing northeast at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



We then boarded escalators (there are two) to take us upstairs to the viewing platform. This view was taken from the east facing west at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



The trip on the escalator was longer and darker than we thought it would be. This view was taken from the northeast facing southwest at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



At first we went to the rail where we could look down the stone wall to the outer angle. The painting was darker than this at the beginning of the show in order to preserve it. This view was taken from the northeast facing southwest at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.

This video shows there is a blue background, and the program wants one to believe it is early morning. This view was taken from the east facing west at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.

We still have a blue background and the sun is beginning to rise. This view was taken from the east facing west at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.

The special effects on the painting are excellent. Unfortunately, they are happening all around the painting, and visitors’ bodies block your view of other action on the field. This view was taken from the east facing west at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



You and everyone else in the gallery are moving from spot to spot attempting to see what’s going on. We found ourselves not listening to the narration. And of course, everyone wanted to move to the same spot where they could view Armistead and the Confederates coming over the stone wall at the end. This view was taken from the northeast facing southwest at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



Again, for the parts that we were able to see, it was a wonderful painting and diorama. Interestingly, there was no applause for this first-ever showing to a large group. Most of the people were too distracted moving from spot to spot to notice when the program actually concluded. This view was taken from the south facing north at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



No escalator on the way down. You take the stairs, or an elevator if you need one. The lights were out on the top part of the stairs as we groped our way down (this picture was even taken with a flash). This view was taken from the northeast facing southwest at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



We finally have some light near the bottom of the steps. This view was taken from the northeast facing southwest at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.



This is the staircase by which we exited. Our final recommendation: See either the first or last show of the day that won’t be too crowded, and maybe you’ll be able to move around and see most of the painting. Or go during the dead of winter when you suspect no one else is going to be there. This view was taken from the southwest facing northeast at approximately 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 18, 2008.


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