I’m working on an exhibit about the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the World’s Fair in San Francisco in 1915, and I’ve been struggling to communicate what, experientially, it was like to be in the crowd at an early 20th century Fair. Some of my best attempts:
- They were like the State Fair, but with better architecture.
- They were like the Olympics.
Though World’s Fairs still exist (and are more often called Expos these days), I think for the amount of development, grandeur, and sheer international hoopla, the Olympics are the best contemporary parallel.
- They were like the still extant World’s Fair landscapes, but filled with people and souvenir stands and international pageantry and a sense of awe that this coherent, bustling space was just built.
The real question is how to recreate these experiences immersively in a museum space. I’ll keep you posted.