Toward A Cyclorama-Shaped Gettysburg Memorial To The Wounded


See, this is what I'm talking about. And by see, I mean look. Last Spring, while trying to save Richard Neutra's Gettysburg Cyclorama building from destruction by the Park Service and misguided preservationists, I backed into the idea of adapting it as a wheelchair-accessible battlefield observation platform. [Observation platforms are the primary category of structure the Park Service exempts from its professed objective to "restore" the battlefield to its 1865 condition.]

A perfect complement to a disabled/wheelchair-accessible structure would be a memorial or exhibit for those soldiers wounded in battle. While honoring those who sacrifice so much for their country, such a tribute would also bring the issues of the disabled and the disfigured out from the shadows where they have been relegated for centuries, educating all visitors as to the truer human cost of war.

Fortunately, such an exhibit and the educational value it can provide have long been contemplated by folks like Mike Rhode and his colleagues in the archives of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, which boingboing points out began during the Civil War as the Army Medical Museum. Rhode posted a photoset of documentary photos, artifacts, and period documentation of Civil War casualties and medical treatments. The almost industrial scale of battlefield injuries and the largely forgotten threat of disease and infection spurred on major advances in treatment, surgery, amputation, prosthetics, and sterilization.

So check out Rhode's flickr for a difficult-to-see example of what an important-to-see exhibit might look like.

And consider that if Neutra's Gettysburg building were to hold such a memorial, it would begin to pay back some of the karma deficit modernist drum-shaped architecture incurred when the Army Medical Museum was torn down to make way for the Hirshhorn Museum.

Related, next, a year later, in fact: Gettysburg and the Disney/Ken Burns Effect

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: December 28, 2010.

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