Purrington-Russell Panorama Conservation Project

The Museum is moving forward on a long-awaited project, the conservation of the 1848 Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World.  One of the Museum’s iconic artifacts, the Purrington-Russell Panorama, is believed to be the longest painting in the world.  Although such a claim is difficult to prove, at 1,275 long (and eight and a half feet tall) it is a reasonable belief, particularly given that the few other surviving works of this ilk only hundreds of feet long feet are often touted as among the longest.

New Bedford Whaling Museum Collections Manager Jordan Berson with the 1,275 foot Purrington-Russell Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World.

Created by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington in 1848, this Panorama has been displayed in a host of venues – from a national tour when it was created to the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  It was donated to the Museum in 1918 and was displayed for many years.  However, one can easily imagine what a century and a half of rolling, unrolling, display, and light can do to deteriorate nearly a quarter-mile of painted cotton sheeting.  It has not been exhibited in its entirety for more than 50 years, and the Museum thanks Mystic Seaport for kindly storing this monstrous painting over the past year as we develop plans for its next step.

Several preliminary studies of the panorama were completed over the years, ably led by former Conservator Robert Hauser. Thanks to the generosity of the Stockman Family Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Whaling Museum conservation advisory team consisting of independent conservators, developed a formal treatment protocol that will clearly test and define each step of the restoration process. Conservation will begin based on this protocol, and will be directed by Museum’s Curatorial Department.  The Museum continues to seek funding for conservation of the full panorama, and this grant gets us a huge step in the right direction to again make it accessible to scholars and visitors.





Restoring North America’s Longest Painting

A whale’s tale: Longest painting in North America restored
AP News, Business Insider, San Francisco Gate, Boston Globe, Dailymail (Great Britain)

Whaling Museum awarded $180,000 for restoration of famous panorama – America’s longest painting
Whaling Museum awarded $50,000 grant to restore famous panorama


How Big is the Panorama?



 Purrington and Russell’s “Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World” on Vimeo.


Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Last modified: February 1, 2018