Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day Tripping in Portland

This past weekend, my advisor arranged for a field trip to Portland. I was excited to not only see all the fantastic sites and museums on our agenda, but to explore a little more of the state.

Our first stop was to the Saco Museum, about twenty minutes south of Portland. A Pilgrim’s Progress panorama was displayed, partly in a former textile mill across the street and partly at the museum. Panoramas were a precursor to film and cinema. A narrator would tell the story, an orchestra would play an accompanying musical score and several men would change the scenes. This particular panorama was painted by many of the famous Hudson River Valley artists. The initial panorama was so popular that the artists painted a second, more extensive one. The original one has been lost, but the second one was found about twenty years ago and will be displayed until November 10th.  Is it not just breathtaking?
This thing is huge

We also explored the rest of the small museum which contained sermons and items from one of the original churches that was built partly by Paul Revere.

When we arrived in Portland (after a desperately needed cup of coffee from one of the many Indy shops), we explored the Maine Historical Society. The grad students in the group in particular were quite excited about the materials we were presented. Maps, articles, blue prints, books, letters, obituaries, birth certificates, business licenses- so many fantastic items I could potentially use in my research!

Afterwards we meandered to the Portland Museum of Art where there was an exhibit on Winslow Homer. Winslow Homer is considered one of the quintessential American artists. He belonged to no “school” and often painted scenes of the Maine shoreline and animals. I personally loved his paintings. Although his works were over a hundred years old, the paintings were still unique and vibrant.

We explored the remainder of the museum which contained mostly modern art a few Impressionist paintings. I will note that if you are not a modern art fan, the Portland Museum of Art should probably not be on your go-to list. All four graduate students that attended the field trip (the rest were undergrads, professors, and alumni) are eighteenth century historians and were therefore unimpressed by the large amount of modern art.
My fellow graduate students and I walked a little around downtown Portland and settled on a pub for dinner. I really enjoyed Portland. It is an awesome city filled with great restaurants, shops, and a fantastic cultural scene. It is definitely not a big city, but I liked its more low-key vibe. I am glad I was able to attend the field trip and see all the wonderful exhibits on our agenda.

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