New Bedford Whaling Museum awarded $50,000 grant to restore famous panorama

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – The New Bedford Whaling Museum has been awarded $49,845 to restore one of its largest and rarest artifacts, the Purrington-Russell Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World. The competitive award is made possible through the National Park Service’s Maritime Heritage Program in partnership with the Maritime Administration, which assists eligible projects that teach about and preserve sites and objects related to American maritime history.

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 – the world’s largest extant visual record of a whaling voyage, produced in the heyday of the American whaling industry.

In thanking the National Park Service and Maritime Administration, James Russell, museum president and CEO noted the national significance of the project. “The panorama is purportedly the largest painting in the United States, possibly the world; however, its significance is multifold. Before cinema, panoramas were a popular entertainment medium that enthralled audiences around the country. Today, beyond its rarity and scale this work provides a unique lens into America’s maritime past and its contemporary popular culture,” he said.

Over the years, the panorama has been displayed in a host of venues – from a national tour when it was first created – to its exhibition at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. 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.

The three-year project will conserve the work and make it accessible to a national audience through physical and digital platforms. The main objectives are 1) To conserve the artifact within industry-accepted best practices and conduct this work as a “living exhibit” for Museum audiences; 2) To implement a full suite of complementary educational programming; 3) To reproduce a 1/2 scale model of it to serve as an interactive exhibit in the Museum and off-site; 4) To digitize the Panorama and create an online display featuring expanded educational content.

Photo caption:

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


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About the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of whales 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. Open on Holiday Mondays. The Museum is open until 8 p.m. every second Thursday of the month and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  For more information, visit