Museum restores North America's longest painting Restorations of the 1848 “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ’Round the World.” (New Bedford Whaling Museum/Wiki Commons)
Museum restores North America's longest painting
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“Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World” is a big painting. It measures an impressive 1,275 feet long. It is eight-and-a-half feet tall.

It was created in 1848. It was painted by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington. It captures all aspects of a whaling voyage. That was at a time when the business of whaling was booming in the U.S. It was also strong around the world.

The absorbing artwork once toured the U.S. It traveled on wagons and trains. They stopped in Boston and Buffalo. They stopped in New York and St. Louis. They also stopped in other cities on a national tour.

When displayed, a narrator told stories of hunting and processing whales. The panorama was mounted on a system of cranks and reels to go across a theater stage.

But the painting wore down from so much travel. Its paint started chipping and so the piece was put away in storage.

A team has restored the panorama. It was a 20-year effort. The painting is a quarter-mile-long. It is considered the longest painting in North America. That's according to Jennifer McDermott for the Associated Press.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is in Massachusetts. It poured $400,000 into the effort to conserve, digitize and store the panorama. That's according to Allison Meier of Hyperallergic. She reported on the project in February of 2017.

D. Jordan Berson is a textile conservator who’s managing the project. He tells McDermott he sprayed an adhesive on the panorama to stabilize a paint layer. It had powdered over time. He stitched sections that were taken apart. He repaired thinning areas of the textile and fixed tears.

The museum is currently in the process of finding venue large enough to display the artwork. Because it will be shown as a static piece, the venue will need to be at least 16,000 square feet.

In an effort to mimic the original experience and show the panorama moving once again, every section of the piece has also been photographed. They have been merged into a large digital display.

“It’s a national treasure that’s been out of the spotlight for too long,” Berson tells McDermont.

When it was last on tour, the painting might have been used a recruiting tool. At the time, whaling crews were losing young men to the Gold Rush. Then they attended the touring exhibitions., The audience members would see images of far-away destinations they had likely never traveled to. Those included Cape Horn and Fiji. It was sure to excite their imaginations, Michael Dyer, tells McDermott. Dyer is the museum’s curator of maritime history. 

Berson said he hopes that the storied panorama will eventually return to tour some of the cities it once visited.

This time they won’t be recruiting anyone. But one imagines the enormous artwork will likely spark a new conversation on the artwork and the history of commercial whaling. (The ban on which was only issued by the International Whaling Commission in 1986.)

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Why was the museum restoring the painting?
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COMMENTS (31)
  • Davidc-bru2
    1/08/2018 - 08:54 a.m.

    The museum is restoring the painting because in the article it stated that ¨The painting was wearing out due to the travel around the U.S.A¨.

  • 24rgbeau
    1/09/2018 - 10:20 a.m.

    WOW! This is the biggest paint I have ever seen. I think that this painting is really memorizing. If I ever had enough money to buy it I would. Even thought it would probably cost a fortune.

  • 24ejflag
    1/09/2018 - 10:22 a.m.

    the painting wore down from so much travel. Its paint started chipping and they put it away. I want to see the largest painting ever. I love to paint.

  • 24mjstie
    1/09/2018 - 10:23 a.m.

    They are restoring it because was created in 1848. They went on a tour with the painting, they went to Buffalo,Boston,New York,and St.Louis. The painting is really valuable. It is worth $400,00. The painting started to chip so they put it in storage.

  • 24ajtrom
    1/09/2018 - 10:23 a.m.

    The museum was restoring the painting because the painting is becoming chipped and is being wore down from so much travel. I think that this article provided much information, and I think that it is very impressive that Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington painted such a long, beautiful masterpiece. It explained that the artwork was 1,275 feet long and 8 1/2 feet tall. The painting took 20 years to paint, and it is was created in 1848.

  • 24crkutc
    1/09/2018 - 10:23 a.m.

    Why was the museum restoring the painting? Because this painting was made a long time ago. This painting is half of a mile. You would think they would want to restore the painting. Thats why the museum was restoring the painting.

  • 24kmjohn
    1/09/2018 - 10:25 a.m.

    The museum is restoring the painting because it is the biggest painting in north america.

  • 24smdrie
    1/09/2018 - 10:26 a.m.

    Why is the museum restoring the painting? They are restoring the painting because one it is a quarter mile long! It is to date the largest painting in North America and I believe that it should be kept in the museum. Also the reason the museum is restoring the painting is because the paint is chipping and it is starting to tear and it is in need of some repairs. This is I think the museum is repairing the painting.

  • 24zdgill
    1/09/2018 - 10:27 a.m.

    Because it is the largest painting in the world. Also it sold for $400,000. It will be shown as a static piece, the venue will need to be at least 16,000 square feet.

  • katherineb-buh
    1/09/2018 - 10:39 a.m.

    The longest painting in North America, Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World, was restored. It is 1275 feet long. The painting had gone around the United States on tour before, in wagons. On tour, the paint started to chip off. But now it has been restored. The process took 20 years. There are also pictures being taken of it, and will be put on a digital display.
    I think that this is good that they are restoring a very old painting. I can't believe that it took 20 years to restore it.

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