Sunday, July 02, 2006

Cyclorama and Oakland Cemetary

Today was just full of historic fun. My friend Jarrett picked me up this morning and we headed off to the Atlanta Cyclorama. You probably haven't heard of a cyclorama before --my understanding is that they fell out of favor in about 1910. The cyclorama is basically a giant circular painting that depicts a scene. In this particular case the scene was the battle of Atlanta. Visitors to the Atlanta Cyclorama are shown a 14-minute introductory video before actually entering the cyclorama itself. The introductory video was of extremely poor quality. It was painfully obvious at times that they were using miniture train models to depict the battle. After suffering through that (or rather, trying to contain our laughter at the hillariously low-budget production), we were escorted into the cyclorama. We sat down on benches. The lights dimmed and the narration started as we began to slowly spin in a circle. It took us a while to get one full cycle around the 'rama because the painting is as large as two football fields.
During our slow revolution, Jarrett and I noticed some interesting things about the narration. First of all, the war was referred to as the "war between the states" --which is a phrase characteristic of Southern sympathizers. It took me a while to finally figure out why this phrase was more palatable to the South than civil war. The idea is that if the conflict was called the "War Between the States" the South is recognized as an equal entity to the North: both are simply "states." But calling the conflict a civil war implies that Southerners were just a bunch of pugnacious rogues trying to break away. I'll let you decide what phrase you feel most accurately characterizes the war. The narrator also had a funny habit of referring to Union troops as "yanks" or "yankees." I didn't hear him call the Confederate troops "rebs," though.
We actually got to have one more spin round the cyclorama. This time, a tour guide spoke about the history of the cyclorama itself. I found this revolution 'round the painting much more interesting than the first. Of course, our trip would not have been complete without visiting the gift shop. Jarrett tirelessly sifted through the various Confederate trinkets to find the true gem of the store: a jaw harp. Unfortunately, the poor quality of the instrument combined with my friend's lack of talent produced a sound you won't likely hear at a dixie jamboree anytime soon.
We then headed over to Oakland Cemetary, the current home of Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell. While the cemetary has notably large African American and Jewish sections, I was primarily interested in the Confederate memorials and markers. Oakland is less well-preserved than its Richmond counterpart, Hollywood Cemetary. Where Hollywood has verdant rolling hills, Oakland has crabgrass, weeds and concrete.

I found this a particularly striking illustration of the different approaches to Civil War memory in Richmond and Atlanta. To be quite reductive, Richmond seems to be more of an "old South" type place: it takes it monuments seriously, it preserves tradition, it honors the dead. Atlanta, on the other hand, seems to be a more "new South" city. Especially in the case of Stone Mountain, the Confederate memorial is subordinated to profit motive. Jarrett, an Atlanta native, had barely even realized that the three huge Confederate generals on the rock face are Lee, Jackson and Davis. This is a testament to the agressive marketing campaign the park has executed. Here, Stone Mountain is most famous for its nighttime laser light show. I would be very surprised if the viewers of the nighttime spectacle realized that for many years Stone Mountain was the meeting place of the Ku Klux Klan and that the mountain itself was donated to Georgia by the Klan grand-wizard.

8 Comments:

At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

uggh...couldn't you have used the "bad driver" picture instead? I'm not sure the jaw harp really accentuates my best features. Although playing it while behind the wheel does convey the "bad driver" message as well. Hmmm...

 
At 11:44 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

I'm sorry. It came out blurry. Plus I wanted to show everyone what a jaw harp was. I'm not sure that the phrase "jaw harp" conjures up visions of Snoopy for everyone.

 
At 1:25 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Hi Sarah, -- I just came across your blog and have to say that it looks to be quite interesting. I have very similiar research interests. You may find my Civil War blog to be of some interest. I've placed a link to your site along the left hand column under the heading "Civil War Bloggers."

www.civilwarmemory.typepad.com

Best of luck on your travels.
Kevin

 
At 3:54 PM, Blogger Wax pa Pelo said...

Estimada Senorita

No te quejas tanto de tu pobreza. Son muy pocos, que no quire cambiara contigo. Por toda la riqueza del mundo esta en tu mano, mente y corazon.

Con carino

Wax

 
At 3:55 PM, Blogger Wax pa Pelo said...

Estimada Senorita

No te quejas tanto de tu pobreza. Son muy pocos, que no quire cambiara contigo. Por toda la riqueza del mundo esta en tu mano, mente y corazon.

Con carino

Wax

 
At 6:37 PM, Blogger marcferguson said...

Sarah,
What an interesting blog! I found my way here via Kevin's blog, and will make it a regular stop on my daily reading.

 
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