Nothing prepares you for the scale of this thing. Seen here is one of the four panels on display now, an off-site exhibit of the New Bedford Whaling Museum. But the panorama is coming down in one week!
See America’s longest painting – longer than the Empire State Building is tall. All 1,275 feet of the Panorama is currently on exhibit to awe visitors. This is the first time in generations that the entire Panorama can be seen by the public. Set amidst an historic textile mill in New Bedford, visitors are able to travel around the world and back in time without ever leaving the city. The exhibition also features interpretive panels and kiosks to enrich the context and content of the Panorama. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is free and open to the public, open during normal Museum hours through Columbus Day.
I don’t often send you out of town but this is a unique and wondrous artifact. And for Providence residents with Cape Verdean or Azorean roots — this is must see. The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World was painted in 1848 by New Bedford artists Caleb Purrington and Benjamin Russell. Their attention to geographic detail and nautical authenticity is remarkable.
In the late 1840’s and early 1850’s (proceeding the age of cinema) the Panorama was designed and performed as a moving panorama, a form of entertainment where multiple scrolls moved across a stage similar to how a reel-to-reel film would later be shown. After years on display, the wear and tear on the 170-year old painting was so extensive that it was deemed worthless and impossible to conserve. After decades of conservation planning and method strategy research, the Museum brought this national treasure back to life and is proud to share it with the public.
You can drive directly to the Grand Panorama, housed in the enormous old Kilburn Mill building, or go to the New Bedford Whaling Whaling Museum where a shuttle hops back-and-forth every half hour. My driver, Simone, gave a lively description of historic New Bedford along the way (it takes about 5 minutes).
The museum itself, which includes the Seamen’s Bethel, of Herman Melville fame is a treasure. Kids may not be too interested in Melville’s pew, but the museum, with its whale skeletons and the 89-foot, half-scale model of the bark, Lagoda (children are instructed to climb on and touch everything) must be a hit with all but the dullest child.
I don’t know what parking is like in the summer, but I drove right up to the museum today and parked on the street outside, no meter. The weekend will probably be different. Go here for parking alternatives and directions.
The detail below is of Horta, Azores.