The Grand Panorama Lecture Series



Attendees joined Museum curators as they presented a series of lectures surrounding the opening of A Spectacle in Motion: The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World.


August 7, 2018

A Spectacle in Motion: 19th Century Entertainment and The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World

At the New Bedford Whaling Museum
By Dr. Christina Connett, Chief Curator
This lecture placed the Panorama in the larger context of the visual culture of the era surrounding this unique and enormously popular genre of public entertainment.

The Panorama is a unique work of art because it is one of only a few surviving American moving panoramas, a popular art and entertainment form that reached its peak in the mid-19th century.  In many ways, panoramas were cultural indicators to public interests that fed the massive popularity of World’s Fairs starting in the second half of the 19th century, most notably those of Paris, London, Chicago, and New York. Much like the extraordinary adventure writings of authors like Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, panoramas played to the spectacle of the exotic and the unknown to eager audiences of armchair travelers and the rising middle class in the Industrial Age. Audiences keen on the authentic experience, but without the means or desire to travel far afield, could be transported into another locale through the spectacle of the moving panorama. 


August 14, 2018

Industry of Whaling and Maritime Culture of Mid-19th Century America

At the New Bedford Whaling Museum
By Michael P. Dyer, Curator of Maritime History
Attendees joined Michael P. Dyer as he introduced the Panorama through an industrial lens. When Benjamin Russell actually conceived his idea for a traveling whaling panorama picture show may remain forever unknown. It was probably sometime between 1841, when he shipped onboard a whaler and 1847, around the time when he and Caleb Purrington actually began to paint it. One thing is for certain, this painting coincided with the height of American whaling, both economically, physically, and culturally. In 1846, the American whaling fleet numbered 722 vessels, almost 190,000 tons, carrying cargos of sperm oil, spermaceti, whale oil, and whale-bone worth $6.2 million to both domestic and international markets. The impacts of the whaling enterprise were felt through many segments of American society and its profits later funded local industries as divergent as banking, machine tool manufacturing, and cotton spinning.

Internationally, the growth of the industry demanded an American diplomatic presence in many faraway lands, hence it could be said to have advanced the vanguard of American hegemony in the Pacific. Its prosperity enabled the arts to flourish in the city, not only the fine arts like painting, but the mechanical arts including whale craft manufacture, ship building, architecture, and what we know today as the “Humanities,” including public libraries, lyceums, and benevolent societies. From Wareham to Westport, the New Bedford port district weighed heavily on the industry’s numbers and its weight would continue to grow for another decade.


August 28, 2018

Globalization and Diversity of Maritime Industries from New Bedford

At Kilburn Mill, 127 West Rodney French Blvd, New Bedford
By Dr. Akeia Benard, Curator of Social History
Dr. Benard interpreted the Panorama as an expansive and detailed testimony to New Bedford as a global cosmopolitan hub and its linkages with the rest of the world through the whaling industry. The painting is structured as a whaling voyage “‘round the world” and illustrates the path of expanding hegemony of the United States through the intersection and injection of American commerce worldwide into remote and “exotic” ports and landfalls. The Panorama takes the viewer on a voyage from New Bedford to the Azores, around Cape Horn into the Pacific, and across the Indian Ocean to St. Helena in the South Atlantic. Among the landfalls delineated are Pico and Faial in the Azores, St. Nicholas, Isle of Sal, and Fogo in the Cape Verde Islands, Rio de Janeiro, Tierra del Fuego, Cape Horn, Juan Fernandez Island, the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Hawaii. Details of the ports – their geography, inhabitants, architecture, and maritime infrastructure – are vividly represented in the painting. In its very structure, the Panorama represents the connections between these far-flung locations and different cultures forged by the American enterprise of whaling and the global dominance of the American whaling industry.


Tickets: Members $10 | Non-members $15
Series Tickets: Members $25  | Non-members $40