Exhibits in Focus

In a three-four page, thesis-driven essay that explores and analyzes specific examples from the reading assignments, write on one of the following prompts:

1. By describing and analyzing the formal characteristics of the Crystal Palace or another building associated with World’s Fairs, explore how the aims and values of these events where embodied physically. (Preziosi)

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2. How did World’s Fairs exhibit the “Other,” and what does this tell us about the nature of encounters between different cultures? (Mitchell)

3. Opening the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha in 1898, John Baldwin praised the Fair as an “instrument of civilization” and a “concomitant [or attendant] to empire.” With reference to late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century expositions, discuss what the “instrument” of the World’s Fair was designed to do, and what Baldwin might have meant by “civilization.” How did exhibits – particularly those representing “other” cultures – seek to explain imperialist ambitions and values to a mass audience? Do you see links between the exhibiting strategies of the World’s Fairs and the values of imperialism? (Kosminder)

4. What was Édouard Manet’s view of the Exposition Universelle of 1867? How did his aesthetic values relate to those displayed at the exposition? What were the reasons for his exclusion from the official art show and why did he find it necessary to mount his own exhibition nearby? (Mainardi)

5. What values and aspirations did the Unisphere represent in 1964-65 and how were those ideas subverted or appropriated by subsequent generations of New Yorkers? (Gaskins)

6. What does the Woman’s Building at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair tell us about the historical treatment of women? What specific discourses surrounding women’s emancipation existed in 1893, especially relating to issues of equality, voting rights, professional access and ideas of femininity? (Sund)

7. What vision of the future did the General Motors exhibit “Futurama” offer to the American public in 1939? How did the dynamics of corporate competition play into the design of the GM pavilion? What impact did the GM conception have on the evolution of American urban planning and transport infrastructure? (Marchand)

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