Considerations and Recommendations Regarding Exhibition of the Gettysburg
Cyclorama Painting (released by National Park Service, November 1998)
"Following is a discussion of the major conservation issues concerning the present and future exhibition of the 1884 cyclorama painting of the Battle of Gettysburg by Paul Dominique Philippoteaux.
* This cyclorama
painting was commissioned for exhibition in Boston in 1884. Following
this exhibition, the cyclorama was dismantled and various sections were
displayed in New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C. and Baltimore.
* 1912-1913 Restorers Unknown
# Extensive restoration to make the fragmented, fire and water damaged painting exhibitable in cyclorama form. Losses occurred in the horizontal length (narrative passages) and in the vertical height (sky). Promotional literature of the time stated that the painting was 400 feet long and 50 feet high, although the exact dimensions must be extrapolated from physical, documentary and comparative evidence. Canvas was added to the significantly damaged bottom edge of the painting where the prop foreground had been. Holes and tears were mended. Significant overpainting was done to unify the pictorial sequence.
* 1948 Richard Panzoni
# In-situ restoration of damaged areas due to cumulative roof-leaks and unheated conditions. Attempt to alleviate gravitational stress by gluing canvas strips to the back and stapling the strips to a support frame. The treatment caused significant dimensional distortion resulting in serious puckering and radiating folds with subsequent serious damage to the paint layer.
* 1959-1961. Walter J. Nitkiewitz, NPS
# After facing and removal of the painting in sections, each section was flattened, sized and relined with canvas and wax resin. More sky area was removed further shortening the original vertical height. Because of the parabolic shape of the painting (narrower at the bottom than at the top), excess canvas at the bottom edge formed deep ruffles when hung from the new mounting support structure within the cyclorama viewing gallery, and excess canvas was attached to wooden slats on each side of the main canvas joins and pulled back in an attempt to created a more gradual distribution of the folds over a wider span.
* 1975-1976. Walter Nitkiewitz.
# Repair of cracks and voids caused by separation along major canvas joins. Noted that surface distortions were becoming more visible and repositioned support slats to better distribute excess material along the bottom circumference. Recommended a new lighting system to assist in optically flattening out the surface distortions. The bottom edge of the painting was taped to the floor to hold rearranged folds in place in 1976. Inadequacy of the climate control system to stabilize damaging fluctuations in relative humidity was noted. Even though the system was replaced in the mid-1970's, the design of the HVAC of three zones with separate supply ducts but with return ducts directing air back to a single fan mixing all conditioned air, made it impossible to provide strict humidity control for the circular exhibit portion of the building alone.
* 1984-1989. Tom Carter, NPS.
# On-site conservation
undertaken to stabilize flaking areas resulting from dimensional changes
due to erratic RH% and aging of the wax resin lining. In the wake of
increasing conservation concern, a new AC unit was installed on the
roof in the mid- 1980's to alleviate problems noted in the mid-1970's.
However, the steam duct- mounted humidification system that has never
worked properly, and the reheat capacity of the A/C was not sufficient
to control high RH.
Present and continued deterioration of the painting is ascribable to the following:
* Improper mounting
technique that does not permit the painting to assume its natural parabolic
shape. Pronounced dimensional distortion has resulted in cleavage, tenting,
flaking and loss of the paint layer.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE EXHIBIT
Future preservation of this painting depends on conservation treatment followed by reinstallation using an appropriate mounting technique.
cannot be done without complete conservation, which includes removal
of the 1959-61 wax/resin lining.
* The size the
present cylindrical Cyclorama exhibit area is too small to accommodate
the painting when returned to its original parabolic shape. The circumference
will be too large to accommodate the expanse of the painting plus a
mounting support system as well as permit access to the back of the
installed painting and permit adequate insulating space between the
mounted painting an [sic] exterior wall.
* Relocate the
Cyclorama to a new purpose-built structure that is large enough to accommodate
its full dimension after conservation.
by: Brigid Sullivan