SACO MUSEUM “ROLLS OUT” THE MOVING PANORAMA OF PILGRIM’S PROGRESS | Events
SACO MUSEUM “ROLLS OUT”
THE MOVING PANORAMA OF PILGRIM’S PROGRESS
Saco, Maine—More than fifteen years of research and restoration have come to a show-stopping finale at the Saco Museum with a major exhibition and public programs focused on the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress. This summer marks the completion of a major grant-funded project to conserve this national treasure of 19th-century American art, which was thought lost for 100 years and rediscovered only in 1996. For the first time since the 1860s, the entire historic panorama—800 feet of vibrantly painted muslin canvas, in four sections—is on view in two downtown locations, the Saco Museum and the historic Pepperell Mills. Live performances of a full-scale, modern replica recreate the historic experience of seeing a moving panorama in action, while the a web-based film animation has introduced the panorama to a global audience. Gallery talks and family activities will also be offered through the summer and fall, including a day-long public symposium with distinguished scholars scheduled for September 21-22, 2012. The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress will be on view through November 10, 2012.
About the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress
The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress illustrates, in a way that no other work of art has done before or since, a moment when ideas about faith, art, and landscape all traveled along the same narrow highway in the course of American life. Also known as Bunyan’s Tableau, it was created in 1851 and presented to audiences nationwide throughout the second half of the 19th century. Precursors to the modern motion picture, moving panoramas consisted of immense lengths of fabric painted to depict popular stories, events and locations of the time. Panoramas were presented by scrolling the massive canvas paintings across a stage, accompanied by narration and music. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, on which this panorama is based, was also a sensation in its time and beyond. Written in 1678 England, it achieved a peak of popularity in 19th-century America, where it became a huge influence upon literature and religion. The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress was one of the most important moving panoramas in the United States, an exceptional example of this genre of painting that bridged high art and popular culture. It was conceived by members of the National Academy of Design in New York, with designs contributed by Hudson River School masters Frederic Edwin Church, Jasper Cropsey, Daniel Huntington, and others. In this way, it relates directly to the developing national school of landscape painting.
After its final performance in York County, Maine, the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress spent many years in a Biddeford barn and was ultimately given to the York Institute (now the Saco Museum) in 1896. The panorama was forgotten as the museum’s location moved from building to building, and was periodically closed for wartime uses, throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was not until 1996, a full century after the original gift, that the panorama was rediscovered in the museum’s storage vault. It was this discovery that prompted the panorama’s partial conservation—approximately one fourth was treated—and exhibition tour in 1999. This current project completes the conservation work begun two decades ago, treating and exhibiting the panorama in its entirety and exploring innovative new strategies to make this immense masterpiece of 19th century American art accessible to audiences and scholars worldwide.
About the Current Restoration Project
In December 2009, The Dyer Library and Saco Museum received a Save America’s Treasures grant of $51,940 to support the conservation of the panorama plus the creation of two key interpretive tools: a modern replica that can be displayed in motion, as the panorama was originally designed to be seen, and an interactive video, complete with music and narration, that is be available on the museum’s website. The grant project began in January of 2010, when the panorama in its entirety was shipped to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center (www.williamstownart.org) in Massachusetts for treatment. Over the course of a year, the staff at Williamstown cleaned the panorama, mended the fabric, and preserved the delicate painted surface. They also made a complete photographic record of every inch of the panorama, front and back
The photography is a crucial part of the project and the backbone of the interpretive tools also created through the grant-funded award (see below for a full list of funders). Even after conservation treatment, the panorama is too delicate to be displayed in motion, as it was originally mean to be seen; therefore, the digital photographs produced at WACC will be used to create a full-size functional replica that can be used for public performances (the next two performances are scheduled for August 3 and 31 at Saco's historic City Hall Auditorium). The replica was printed in Portland, Maine by Designtex (www.designtex.com, formerly Portland Color). The photos also provided the raw material for a web-based animation of the panorama in motion. This video, which includes a voice narration and music, premiered at the opening reception on June 29 and is also available in the exhibit galleries and on the DLSM website, making the panorama a resource for museum visitors and scholars worldwide. The film was produced by Back Lot Films (www.backlotfilms.com) of Fremont, New Hampshire.
Exhibition and Public Programs
Through November 10, 2012, the entire historic panorama--800 feet of vibrantly painted muslin canvas--is on display in two discrete downtown Saco/Biddeford locations. Three of the four sections of the panorama, about 600 feet, are exhibited in a former loom room within the Pepperell Mill Campus, part of the historic textile mill complex in downtown Biddeford. This room is one of the few spaces large enough to accommodate the panorama’s massive scale; it also provides a meaningful connection to the panorama’s mid-19th-century origins. The three sections on view at Pepperell Mills tell the complete story of the protagonist Christian’s perilous journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. The remaining fourth section, illustrating the related journey of Christian’s wife, Christiana, is on display in the main gallery of the Saco Museum, alongside an array of prints, books, and other materials relating to the panorama’s history, to the panorama tradition, and to the illustrated history of The Pilgrim’s Progress itself. The exhibition is made possible through a grant from Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution; its presentation at Pepperell Mills is made possible with the cooperation of the Pepperell Mill Campus (www.pepperellmillcampus.com) and the Biddeford Mills Museum (www.biddefordmillsmuseum.org).
Public programs focused on the panorama will include performances of the replica at Saco's historic City Hall Auditorium on Friday, August 3 and Friday, August 31 at 6:30 p.m.; a series of "Panorama Family Fun Days" including art-making activities for kids of all ages on July 19, August 2, and August 16; and a public symposium scheduled for September 21/22. Because the panorama touches upon so many interconnected subjects—painting, literature, theater, cinema, religion—a wide variety of themes will be explored by scholars from many different fields. Prospective speakers include Kevin Avery, Senior Research Scholar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Erkki Huhtamo, Professor of Media Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles; Russell Potter, Professor of English at Rhode Island College; and Suzanne Wray, an independent scholar of the panorama medium. A full schedule for this symposium, which will be open to the general public, will be available summer 2012.
The preservation and interpretation of the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress is made possible by grants from Save America’s Treasures through a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service, Department of the Interior; the Wyeth Foundation for American Art; the Maine Arts Commission; the Davis Family Foundation; the Maine Humanities Council; Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution; and the Gateway Foundation. Creation of the panorama’s performance replica was expressly supported by a Humanities Infrastructure grant from the Maine Humanities Council. Presentation of the Moving Panorama exhibition is made possible by an additional grant from Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution and with the support of the Pepperell Mill Campus and the Biddeford Mills Museum.
Dyer Library/Saco Museum Information: The Dyer Library/Saco Museum is located at 371 Main Street (Route 1) in historic downtown Saco, Maine. Free parking. Museum is handicapped accessible. Museum hours: Tues, Wed, Thurs 12 – 4 pm; Friday 12 – 8 pm (FREE from 4 – 8 pm); Saturday 10 am – 4 pm; and Sunday 12 – 4 pm (June-December only). Admission for panorama exhibition: Regular adult admission is $5 for the Saco Museum and $5 for the Pepperell Mill exhibit; combined same-day tickets may be purchased at either location for $7.50. Discounts available for seniors, students, and children. Admission is ALWAYS FREE to DL/SM Card holders and their guests. Group tour rate available for groups of 8 or more. Group tours must be scheduled in advance. For additional information, please call 283-3861, ext. 114 or visit www.dyerlibrarysacomuseum.org