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

Public can view conservation in process

For high-res images contact Gayle Hargreaves

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – The New Bedford Whaling Museum has been awarded $180,000 to restore one of its largest and rarest artifacts, the Purrington-Russell Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World. The award is made possible through the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and coincides with the Park’s 20th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

The panorama, which measures 1,275-feet in length and eight and a half feet tall, was created by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington in 1848.  Produced in the heyday of the American whaling industry, it is the world’s largest extant visual record of a whaling voyage. More than 150 years of travelling, handling, and public exposure have contributed to the deterioration of the panorama’s nearly quarter-mile of painted cotton sheeting. It has not been exhibited in its entirety for more than 50 years.

Acknowledging the award, Meghan Kish, Superintendent, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park said, “We are proud to support the conservation of the panorama, especially in the National Park Service's Centennial year. The project represents the best example of how the park works with our community partners. The project allows for the preservation of a key object in the Whaling Museum's collection, and by conducting the work in the public view, it adds a layer of interpretation and education that is right in line with the NPS' core mission. Once completed, the panorama will help us tell the story of New Bedford's 19th century global reach through its whaling industry.”

Whaling Museum President and CEO James Russell said, “The panorama is being conserved one careful and small step at a time, but the completion will be a major leap forward for the Museum! Ultimately our moon shot is to display the canvas in its entirety. This is the longest painting in America and we must make it available for people to enjoy and appreciate. It is a massive undertaking, and I congratulate Jordan Berson, Director of Collections, for embracing this challenge so enthusiastically. We look forward to the summer of 2018 when visitors can walk amidst the unfolding story and take a ‘voyage around the world’ reliving a time when whalers sailed to where no man had gone before.”

Conservation of the panorama is considered a monumental project by professional conservators. To date, about half of the panorama has been treated with a fixative spray on the paint layer to prevent the image from flaking away. This first section is awaiting the second phase of treatment involving textile repairs. A professional conservation team will perform the textile mends needed for long term stability and preservation, while adding support to enable exhibition. The three-year project is being fully documented.  Visitors can see the panorama now in the Museum’s Bourne Building, where it is being photographed in its entirety. Soon visitors will be able to observe conservation in process in the Conservation Lab in the Museum’s Wattles Jacobs Education Center.


Contact: Gayle Hargreaves
Director of Marketing
New Bedford Whaling Museum
508-997-0046 Ext. 139 (office)


About the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of human interaction with whales through time, and the history and culture of the South Coast region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Museum hours April through December: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum is open until 8 p.m. every second Thursday of the month. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Admission is: Free for Museum members and children aged three and under; adults $16, seniors (65+) $14, students (19+) $9, child and youth $6For more information, visit


Photo Caption: New Bedford Whaling Museum Director of Collections Jordan Berson (center) considers the 1,275 foot Purrington-Russell Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World. The panorama, which is longer than the Empire State Building is tall, is being conserved. Visitors can see the work in process in the Conservation Lab in the Museum’s Wattles Jacobs Education Center.

Jordan Berson with Panorama

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