As the opening of Gettysburg’s new Visitor Center, Museum, and Cyclorama building draws nearer, I thought I’d put up the Gettysburg Foundation’s website on the new buildings for those who haven’t looked through it yet. There you’ll find several links to look through plans for the extensive collections, the fully restored Cyclorama painting, etc.
Regarding the Cyclorama painting, last year I made a particular special trip to Gettysburg to meet up with Dana Shoaf, now editor of Civil War Times magazine, and some ranger friends – John Heiser, Eric Campbell, and Scott Hartwig. Dana and I met John at the Cyclorama building that morning, which had recently closed due to the removal of the painting and the beginning of its restoration process. Most of the painting was carefully rolled up awaiting restoration, but a few panels were displayed under controlled conditions while being worked on. John took us back to the work center to see what was going on, which was quite special to us – the process, of course, was not open to the public. We got to see how the restoration process was really bringing back the majestic colors of the original work, and also the several feet of canvas that had been hidden since the original building was incorrectly designed to display it. I can’t wait to see that old Cyc building come down – it was horribly designed, the roof leaked from the very day the place opened, and atmospheric conditions did more harm than good to the painting… plus the fact that the building (as well as the Rosensteel building of the Visitor Center) were on battlefield land in the heart of the Federal position on Cemetery Ridge.
The new Cyclorama building has been designed to showcase the original painting in all its majesty, instead of the other way around. I can’t wait to see that. The new Visitor Center and Museum will showcase the park’s extensive collection of artifacts, the majority of which have been stored away (also under very damaging conditions) due to lack of space. From what I’ve read, the theater is going to have quite a “wow” factor, and the whole site will be much more conducive to learning – especially for the younger folks. Let’s hope that the public/private partnership that comprises this venture works out for all.
In addition, the site of the present VC/Cyc buildings will be reclaimed as near as possible, which will re-open the viewsheds in the area of Zeigler’s Grove and that corridor of the Taneytown Road that hasn’t been seen for generations. Perhaps that will be the most beneficial effect of all.
When I was in Gettysburg last month, I was able to view the new tree cuttings in the southern part of the field that had been done the prior few weeks, and most recently the area southwest of the Triangular Field and the D-shaped field near the Slyder Farm have been opened up even more. I eagerly anticipate seeing those areas next week during Remembrance weekend. Especially the area near the Slyder Farm – much of the tree clearing over the past year has been done in that area, truly helping the interpretation of actions such as Longstreet’s assault of July 2, and Farnsworth’s Charge of July 3. The clearings have further proved the ridiculousness of one Battlefield Guide’s attempts to “move” Farnsworth’s Charge a half mile to the south near the Maryland border. It indeed took place exactly where the veterans said it did (regardless of this Guide’s attempts to say they were all hopelessly confused) and the primary descriptions of the ground and the views today prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Like many who have called Gettysburg a “second home” for so long, I am constantly looking at an entirely “new” battlefield. I couldn’t be happier.