A Spectacle In Motion: The Experience - New Bedford Whaling Museum

A Spectacle in Motion: The Experience

The exhibition presents America’s longest painting – longer than the Empire State Building is tall.

A Spectacle In Motion: The Experience

Bourne Building

Opened: July 29, 2018

Exhibitions_On View_Spectacle in Motion_Logo Pt 2

Stand on the bow of the world’s largest model whaleship, the Lagoda, and watch the Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage 'Round the World scroll by in a life-sized digital format projected in a full theatrical setting, and experience what Benjamin Russell and other whalers saw as they left the port of New Bedford and traveled the sea in search of whales.

As the Panorama was being conserved, it was photographed at high resolution and now there is a fully digitized recreation of the entire painting for the first time in history. To re-create the original Panorama, this exhibition features the digital version of the life-sized Panorama projected to simulate the 19th-century experience on a theatrical stage (similar to the concept on the cover of the Museum’s Summer Bulletin and the stage graphic above). The stage set is based on drawings and prints from the period and is installed off the Lagoda’s bow so visitors can experience the performance from the deck, from theater seating on the floor level, or from vantage points to the port and starboard of the iconic whaleship. As the original score and narrative have been lost over time, they have been recreated and remastered for the new installation, and includes new research and points of interest.

Illustration of the mechanics of a moving panorama

Illustration of the mechanics of a moving panorama

Dive deeper into the specifics of the Panorama story on a large, touch-screen, interactive kiosk. The kiosk features a map of the voyage, information on related Museum artifacts and paintings, and the Panorama’s conservation history. You will be able to zoom in close to any scene or detail that interests you and get rich context for each section.

Enhancing the experience, artifacts from the Museum’s permanent Collections further illustrate Russell’s own global travels and connect locations represented in the Panorama with relevant ethnographic material and objects. Exhibitions that tell the stories of Yankee Whaling, the connections with the Azores and Cabo Verde, as well as the many stories told in the existing Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World exhibition help amplify the content of the Panorama. The Panorama in the context of its own time – the era of the “public spectacle” is explored in the exhibition, and includes complementing pieces from the Museum’s permanent Collection.


Explore the digital version of The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage 'Round the World with expanded access to the history and narratives of Purrington and Russell’s Grand Panorama.



Section of Roll 1 from "The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage 'Round the World" by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington. Now viewable online via the Whaling Museum's Digital Grand Panorama on arcgis.com.

More About the Panorama

Online Exhibit

Explore the digital version of The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage 'Round the World with expanded access to the history and narratives.

Audio Tour

Dive deeper into the scenes and stories told throughout the Panorama. Walk the Panorama and the tour takes you around the world through the eyes of a whaler.

Past Exhibit

A Spectacle in Motion: The Original. The exhibition presented America’s longest painting. All 1,275 feet of the Panorama was on exhibit to awe visitors. This was the first time in generations the entire Panorama could be seen by the public.

Exhibition Catalog

This two-volume publication dives into the detail and narrative of the Panorama and allows people to quite literally hold the entire artwork in the palm of their hands.

Conservation Spotlight

Created when giant paintings unrolled in front of a paying audience, this Panorama survives as a nationally important artifact of American culture.


Restoring North America’s Longest Painting by Bob Seay, January 5, 2018.

AP News

A whale’s tale: Longest painting in North America restored b

Press Release

New Bedford Whaling Museum awarded $180,000 for restoration of famous panorama – America’s longest painting by Gayle Hargreaves

Thanks To "A Spectacle in Motion" Supporters


  • The William M. Wood Foundation

Title Supporters

  • The New York Community Trust – Wattles Family
  • Charitable Trust Fund, Recommended by Gurdon B. Wattles

Platinum Supporters

  • Ruth & Hope Atkinson
  • BayCoast Bank
  • Bristol County Savings Bank
  • Cynthia & Douglas Crocker II
  • Carol M. Taylor & John H. Deknatel
  • Nye Lubricants

Diamond Supporters

  • Butler’s Hole Fund, Recommended by Rick & Nonnie Burnes
  • Bess & Jim Hughes

Gold Supporters

  • Amy & Andy Burnes
  • The Chardon Family
  • Faith & Dick Morningstar

Silver Supporters

  • Bay State Wind
  • Christine & Eric Cody
  • Eastern Fisheries
  • Tally & John Garfield
  • Island Foundation, Inc.
  • Joseph Abboud Manufacturing
  • Mary Myers Kauppila & Keith W. Kauppila
  • Ladera Foundation
  • Sharon Lewis – AB Bernstein Private Wealth Management
  • Tina & Paul Schmid
  • Sylvia Group

Bronze Supporters

  • BankFive
  • Jewelle & Nathaniel Bickford
  • Boston Marine Society
  • The Castelo Group
  • Ruth B. Ekstrom
  • Barbara & Paul J. Ferri
  • Constance & Stanley Grayson
  • Randy Harris
  • Lang, Xifaras & Bullard
  • Matouk
  • Page Building Construction Co.
  • Anonymous, 2 donors

Pewter Sponsors

  • Anchor Capital Advisors LLC
  • Christina M. & Charles E. Bascom
  • John & Romayne Bockstoce
  • Civitects, P.C.
  • Ann & Richard Connolly
  • Vanessa & John Gralton
  • Jessie W. & Llewellyn Howland III
  • Betsy & Rusty Kellogg
  • William W. Kenney
  • Edith R. Lauderdale
  • Susan & Anthony Morris
  • Sloan & Wick Simmons
  • Charles Smiler
  • Fredi & Howard Stevenson
  • Ulla & Paul Sullivan
  • Sigrid & Ladd Thorne
  • Grace & David A. Wyss
  • Ann & Hans Ziegler

Major support for the conservation and digitization of the Panorama was provided by the Arcadia Charitable Trust, The Henry P. Kendall Foundation, National Park Service – in cooperation with the staff of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and the Stockman Family Foundation Trust.

A Spectacle in Motion received significant support from the City of New Bedford; Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism; National Endowment for the Humanities; National Maritime Heritage Grant program, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, through the Massachusetts Historical Commission; and the Southeastern Massachusetts Visitors Bureau.