Smithsonian Collections Online: World's Fairs & Expositions: Visions of Tomorrow

World's Fair "Photographs." Warshaw Collection of Business Americana - World Expositions. Gale, 1876. Smithsonian Collections Online.
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Primary Sources
More than 600,000
Fact Sheet

Explore the technological progress that shaped contemporary outlooks and reflected national identities.

World’s Fairs and Expositions: Visions of Tomorrow gives researchers access to primary source documents about landmark exhibits from 1840 to 1940. With more than 600,000 pages of content, this archive captures the spirit, technology, design, and innovations that influenced the modern world.

The international nature of the collection is illustrated in the comprehensive range of material. A partial list of the events covered includes: London, Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations (1851); Melbourne, International Exhibition (1880); Barcelona, Exposición Universal (1888); Paris, Exposition Universelle (1889); Chicago, World Columbian Exposition (1893); and Rio de Janeiro, Exposição Nacional (1908).

This collection allows users to explore the technological progress — in everything from entertainment to politics — that shaped contemporary outlooks and reflected national identities.

Materials drawn from the Smithsonian Libraries, Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, Smithsonian Libraries, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Library, the Archives Center, and the Smithsonian Libraries, National Museum of American History Library include:

  • Books of the Fairs: From the Holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries: with content from glossy and expensive limited-edition folios of artwork displayed at fairs, to manuscript letters, penny guides, exhibit brochures, congress proceedings, and issues of journals devoted to coverage of a fair
  • General histories, exhibition catalogs, official histories, commemorative accounts, exposition publications, visitors’ guides, lectures, technical reports, promotional publications, and other documents for and about the events
  • Exposition Records of the Smithsonian and the United States National Museum, 1867-1940: an account of the Smithsonian's involvement in United States and foreign expositions
  • Larry Zim World’s Fair Collection, 1841-1988: panoramas, postcards, photos, ephemera — content included only up to 1940
  • Selections from the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, c.1723-1977 (content included only up to 1926): content types include trade catalogs, guide books, souvenir books, catalogs, brochures, maps, lithographs, leaflets, tickets, advertising cards, postcards, commemorative stamps, and correspondence
  • World's Fairs titles in the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Library
  • World's Fairs titles in the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology

The unique insights in this collection provide rich fodder for the study of:

  • History
  • Architecture and industrial design
  • Fine arts and decorative arts
  • Science, technology, and medicine
  • Gender and ethnic studies
  • Photography
  • And other disciplines

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Additional Details

Subjects Covered
  • Asian Studies
  • Business and Finance
  • English Language and Literature Studies
  • European Studies
  • Gender and Women's Studies
  • Hispanic / Latin America Studies
  • Middle Eastern Studies
  • Religion and Philosophy
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Studies
  • Humanities/Humanistic Studies
  • U.S. History

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