I celebrated my birthday this August by heading down to the Kilburn Mill in New Bedford to view the Whaling Museum’s Grand Panorama Whaling Voyage Round the World exhibit which runs through Oct. 8, 2018.
The Panorama painted by New Bedford artists Caleb Purrington and Benjamin Russell about 170 years ago, was originally viewed as a rotating scroll in the days before movies and told the story of a typical whaling trip around the world in great detail. Imagine for viewers back in the 1800s, this was the only opportunity to see what distant parts of the world looked like without seeing them first hand! Rumor has it that parts of Moby Dick were inspired by the scenes depicted in this Panorama.
It is no exaggeration to say that it was a completely unique experience to see this art work, which is as long as the Empire State Building is high. The amount of time it would’ve taken to execute an art work of this size is mind boggling. Even to mount this exhibit, restore and repair the work so it is viewable, was a huge undertaking. (The space needed to display the 4 scrolls which hang on specially created supports meant that some artists who had studio space on that floor were displaced temporarily. The space will be reverted back to some other commercial use when the exhibits closes.)
Some highlights for me were the beginning of the scroll: scenes of the familiar skylines of New Bedford and Fairhaven. I loved the scene of Portugal, and the beautiful details of a huge variety of ships and boats. The mystery of the missing scroll, which seems to have been misplaced about 100 years ago, is explained in an interesting display as well.
The world-class New Bedford Whaling Museum did an incredible job providing context information and lots of visuals to help viewers understand what is depicted as well as what creating, restoring, and displaying the work entailed. There are huge interactive touch-screens with information, a working miniature model of the Panorama as it would have been displayed in the olden days, and lots of chairs to rest in for those who need take breaks, because it is vast.
This exhibit is free (donations are accepted) and there is a tiny pop-up gift shop with souvenirs related to the exhibit. I would say give yourself one to 1 & 1/2 hours to enjoy this exhibit. Free parking can be found along the street but we parked in the strip mall lot across from the mill (local knowledge tip). The Kilburn Mill is not walking distance from downtown, but the Whaling Museum is running a shuttle to the mill every half hour. (If you haven’t been to the Whaling Museum or haven’t been there recently please check that out as well. Both the museum and the exhibit are appropriate for families.)
There is a limited time to see this amazing exhibit, so don’t miss out! You don’t have to know anything about art to be swept away on this journey... Just go!!!
(My photos do not do it justice. Also FYI, no flash photography allowed but camera phone without flash was okay.)
The Panorama Marquis at The Kilburn Mill, at Clark's Clove
The view from the Panorama room
A cool little mural on this building, too!
Info about the missing roll.