In 2014, the University of North Georgia (UNG) acquired the only hand-painted, full-size replica of the 224-foot-long Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts historic events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. Created in the 1070s, the original, embroidered Bayeux Tapestry is considered a masterpiece of medieval art.
The painted-canvas replica was commissioned in the 1980s by Dr. E. D. Wheeler, a retired judge and former dean at Oglethorpe University. The piece will be on public display at UNG’s Dahlonega Campus on March 27 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Dining Hall banquet room. Here are four reasons why UNG's Bayeux Tapestry replica is a must-see:
1. It's one of only a few full-size replicas in existence. Two full-size, stitched versions have been completed, one in England and one in Canada; since 2000, a Danish group has been working on a third. A half-scale, mosaic version on display in New Zealand took 20 years and 1.5 million pieces of steel to complete. Various modern artists have replicated panels of the Bayeux Tapestry.
2. It's huge. Only 25 yards shorter than a football field, this piece of art is not easy to move around. When the piece is displayed on March 27, it will circle the entire perimeter of the room.
UNG's facilities staff and art faculty built a wooden box with a big wooden spool that the piece winds around for storage. JoMarie Karst, who teaches weaving and textile art at UNG and was tasked with cleaning the replica, has been creative, but careful, in handling it. She and her students spooled it from the wooden box, across 10-foot tables and onto a gigantic loom, then used a vacuum to clean away the dust.
Laura Beth Tuttle, a senior majoring in art marketing at UNG, spent hours helping clean and photograph the replica.
"I feel like I've learned a lot about preservation of fine arts," Tuttle said. "Also, I've done samples of embroidery and I know how tedious and time-consuming it is and the patience you have to have. When I think of the process the original artists used to create an embroidered piece that's 225 feet long, it just amazes me."
3. It's only on display for one day. Dr. Chris Jespersen, dean of the College of Arts & Letters at UNG, said he would like to take UNG's replica to schools and other locations, but the length means it requires a lot of space. After the March 27 event, a visit to a metro-Atlanta school is scheduled, but no other displays are planned at this time.
The university plans to put the Bayeux replica on permanent display, but has not yet finalized a location due to funding constraints.
4. It's an unusual learning tool. Dr. Tim May, professor of history and associate dean of the College of Arts & Letters, said the accuracy of the replica makes it useful for studying the era's historical events and everyday life.
"The Bayeux Tapestry reveals the biases and perspectives of the creators and their audience, so in order to fully understand events, we need to compare it with other sources that can fill in gaps," May said. "It also provides us with an illustrated history of the era – clothing, daily life, weapons and armor. This gives us insight into what life was like and what kind of events, no matter how mundane, were considered important enough to be committed to the tapestry."