Civic Visions: The Panorama and Popular Amusement in American Art and Society, 1845-1870


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


McIntire Department of Art


Though often overlooked in art-historical scholarship, moving panoramas were one of the most viewed forms of American art in the mid-nineteenth century. Whether it was across the Atlantic, down the Mississippi, or into the Arctic Circle, moving panorama exhibitions relied on the effect of virtual travel to engage the audience in a two-hour performance, intent on edifying its participants. The exhibitors and lecturers framed their panoramas in a variety of conversations: about religion, scientific discovery, national expansion, and the viability of slavery within the US This dissertation argues that the consumption of these exhibitions as art by urban Americans allowed them to declare shared values through the didactic entertainments they embraced, as well as those they eschewed.