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Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum ~ Atlanta GA

Of all the things we did in Atlanta on our second trip, we probably enjoyed the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum the most. As Civil War living historians who have spent years reenacting the War, it really touched our hearts and brought us closer to the people who fought that awful war so long ago.

From the moment you walk up and see the imposing neoclassical Cyclorama museum, built to house the world's largest painting, you know this is going to be fabulous. Elegant columns atop rounded balconies, a Civil War cannon out front, flanked by arches, you begin to step  back in time as you walk through the doors.

We were treated to a special behind the scenes tour, BEFORE we actually experienced it, so we can try to explain this fabulous venue in Grant Park! 

Inside the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum, you will first see a museum display downstairs with all sorts of memorabilia. The locomotive "Texas" which chased down the General, in the The Great Locomotive Chase, sits proudly in the lobby. Guests can watch a 14 minute film on the events leading up to the Battle of Atlanta, before being ushered into the Cyclorama itself, to view the painting and explore the history.

Upstairs, a wonderfully dense museum is full of articles, displays and information on the Civil War. A second movie was playing showing the restoration of the painting, and all that it took to restore it properly and keep it looking beautiful. Plan on a few hours to thoroughly explore this incredible museum, which ranges from the Civil War through Gone With the Wind!

Before cameras could capture panoramic images, the art of the cyclorama was created. A cyclorama is an enormous cylindrical painting that shows a panoramic image, generally of a historical event, battle, famous place, or scene from scripture. Popular in the late 19th century, cycloramas were the precursor to movies, often traveling through out the world providing entertainment. Viewers would stand or sit in the center of the cylindrical painting, and a narrative of the event, often accompanied by music, brought the story to life.

Theatrical events during Victorian times, hundreds of cycloramas were produced during their heyday. As movies began to be produced, which then led to TV, the cyclorama culture dispersed and they eventually fell out of favor. Today, the Atlanta Cyclorama is the largest and best preserved of only about thirty which have survived. It is a rare piece of history that is worth over $14.5 million dollars.

This Cyclorama was commissioned by General Johnny Logan, during his Vice-Presidential campaign. Wanting to show himself in the best light, Gen Logan is depicted charging the Confederate Army on his horse, hat held high, on the left.

It was created to be a giant, hand painted commercial designed to showcase his heroism fighting in the Battle of Atlanta. Assigned in 1883, it began with photo shoots of the original battle ground. Then the basic painting was sketched. From 1885 to 1886, 11 artists spent 22 months working on it. Master craftsman worked in their specialty, with landscape painters filling in the landscape and battle scenes, portrait artists worked on the people depicted in the battle, and horse painters. Unfortunately, Gen Logan died 2 days before the painting was completed, so he was never able to fully relive the glory of the Union defeating Atlanta that he had hoped would help him win high office.

The Battle of Atlanta was painted on thin Belgium linen. Hanging like a curtain, it is 42 feet high by 358 long (circumference) for an impressive total of 16,000 square feet. It weights about 9000 pounds and is 123 years old. Again, this is the world's largest painting!

You sit on a comfortable seating platform in the center of the Cyclorama. We recommend sitting as high as you can, for the very best view. The lights dim, the narrator begins to tell you the story of the battle. The seating area slowly begins to turn, and the battle unfolds before your eyes, a 360° view of the Atlanta Campaign comes to life. It immediately transports you INSIDE the event pictured in a way that modern technology cannot touch.

A diorama was created below the painting, a foreground with trees and bushes, fences and soldiers marching across battlefields, wagons and cannons over the actual floor in front of the painting. It adds a 3-D affect during the performance, and subtly blends into the painting, as the lights and story go round. The Atlanta Cyclorama is an amazing experience, you are visually transported into the battle. You absolutely HAVE to experience it to really get it! My words do not do it justice.

After the narrated battle is finished, guests are treated to a second spin around, where the mechanics of the painting and much of what I have shared above is pointed out. 

With all the festivities during the premiere of Gone with Wind, Clark Gable visited the Cyclorama and promptly declared that it could only be better if he were in it. Clark Gable's face was painted onto a dead soldier, who lies in the foreground of the vista today. You will see him on your visit, so if you are a GWTW fan, don't miss it!

Since the painting was commissioned by a decorated war general from the Grand Army of the Republic, you will see a distinctive Union spin in the painting. Ironic that it ended up in Atlanta, who was still fighting back after reconstruction.

Civil War buffs cannot miss exploring the history of war torn Atlanta in this unique experience. Every school child should write the events on their heart. We urge EVERYONE to visit the amazing Cyclorama & Civil War Museum, there is literally nothing like it in the world!  

Living History Sites HIGHLY recommends the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum on your next Atlanta trip. The Cyclorama is a hidden jewel waiting to be found and enjoyed by everyone! Be sure and tell them the people at LivingHistorySites.com sent you!

We would especially like to thank Shannon Jackson for her incredible behind the scenes tour, making the Atlanta Cyclorama come alive! 

Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum

In Atlanta's historic Grant Park right next to Zoo Atlanta

800 Cherokee Ave. S.E. Atlanta, GA 30315
Located in historic Grant Park, next to Zoo Atlanta
404-624-1071 or 404-658-7625 

Tour Information
Cyclorama Tours
Tour guides conduct a 40-minute, two-part educational program on the Battle of Atlanta every hour on the half hour from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The program includes special lighting, sound effects, music and narration (available in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish).

Part I- A 14-minute film is shown detailing events that led to the Battle of Atlanta.

Part II -Guests are escorted into the Cyclorama to experience the battle. On a second rotation through history, guides explain the history of the painting and answer audience questions.

Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Sundays, 12:30-3:30 pm.
Closed for the following holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day and Martin Luther King’s birthday.

Adults $8
Seniors $7
Children 6-12 years $6
Under 6 years free