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Posts Tagged ‘new bedford’

092518-pod-of-whales-in-Panorama

Back in the 1800s, two artists made a painting more than 1,200 feet long, which they then displayed in cities around the country. They charged admission to audiences interested in learning about the whaling life and the exotic places whaling ships dropped anchor on their long voyages.

Until October 8, the New Bedford [Mass.] Whaling Museum is offering free admission to see the painstakingly restored panorama. The venue is an old warehouse, the only place big enough to hold the painting in its extended form.

In the old days, this marvel traveled by train, sparks flying and burning holes in the painted sheeting, and audiences got to see it unscrolling in a frame that looked a bit like the whaling museum’s draped arch in the picture below.

Back then, people would not have been able to walk up and down and go back to an interesting spot to take a picture. At any given moment, they saw only the part that a narrator was describing. Because I could walk back and forth along the extended artwork, the pictures here may not be in sequence — I might be misleading you into thinking the ships got to Fiji before the Azores, for example. (By the way the volcano picture is from Cape Verde.)

Be sure to check out the whaling museum’s information. This link offers a short video. And this one talks about the conservation work: “Created by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington in 1848, this Panorama has been displayed in a host of venues – from a national tour when it was created to the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was donated to the Museum in 1918 and was displayed for many years. However, one can easily imagine what a century and a half of rolling, unrolling, display, and light can do to deteriorate nearly a quarter-mile of painted cotton sheeting. It has not been exhibited in its entirety for more than 50 years, and the Museum thanks Mystic Seaport for kindly storing this monstrous painting over the past year.”

At the Boston Globe last year, Jennifer McDermott wrote a good preview of the work, which was created, she says, “to capture all aspects of a whaling voyage. The panorama would be mounted on a system of cranks and reels to go across a theater stage as a narrator told stories of hunting whales and processing their carcasses. A poster for the Boston stop in 1849 advertises tickets for 25 cents. The audience members would hear what it was like to round Cape Horn and visit Fiji and other far-flung destinations as they saw painted scenes of those locations.” …

McDermott adds that D. Jordan Berson, who managed the project, “spent a year spraying the panorama with an adhesive to stabilize a paint layer that had powdered over time. The conservator stitched sections that were taken apart, repaired thinning areas of the cotton muslin fabric and fixed holes and tears.”

Nowadays, most of us think it’s a crime to kill these magnificent creatures, but it’s worth knowing how it was done if only because there are still people in places like Japan and Norway whose job it is to do just that.

092518-Panorama-billboard-New-Bedford

092518-exhibit-entrance-mimics-scrolling-frame

092518-whalers-visit-Fiji

092518-whalers-travel-the-world

092518-19th-century-harbor

092518-Azores-in-Whaling-painting

092518-Cape-Verde-volcano-at Panorama

092518-scrimshaw-whaler

 

092518-Polynesian-sailboat

092518-Polynesia-and-whaler

092518-thar-she-blows

092518-ad-for-whaling-spectacle

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My husband and I are often drawn to New England’s older postindustrial cities, with their walkable town centers and their old brick warehouses. They are sometimes called Gateway Cities because for generations they have served as immigrant gateways into the American life. We explored North Adams, Massachusetts, with Suzanne and Erik a couple years ago, and this weekend we went to New Bedford with Suzanne.

Once the whaling capital of the world, New Bedford today is home to an anxious fishing industry, clothing manufacturing, and tourism. We went to the Whaling Museum and came out feeling glad that most countries are more focused on whale preservation than whale hunting.

We sought out Portuguese restaurants and sat on the patio near an outdoor fireplace at one place. We knew there would be Portuguese restaurants as Portuguese speakers have come to New Bedford for generations — from Portugal, the Azores, Cape Verde, and Brazil.

At our beautiful Bed & Breakfast, the hosts (who have spent most of their working lives doing economic development overseas with US A.I.D.) told us that a large Guatemalan community has grown up in the city. They said that most of the Guatemalans speak an indigenous language, Spanish being a second language for them. That’s a particular challenge when Guatemalans go to the hospital as none of the staff speak that indigenous language.

My husband and Suzanne and I walked around. We passed lively Pentecostal churches and a storefront church full of dancers and clowns. We noted lamp posts bearing inspirational banners on how to be a good citizen or how to volunteer. I include one on “Responsibility.”

We also liked the cooperative shops run by members of the local arts community. And we had fun checking out a salvage warehouse for cool architectural bits, here. Among other things, it has rather a lot of bathtubs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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