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Emily S. Warner
American History, Architecture, Art Galleries, Asian Art, Colonialism, Commercialism, Cultural Transmission, Design History, Native America, Photography, Propaganda. Mass Media, Science, Technology, VC
Emily S. Warner, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, talks about the exhibition she composed with her students in Art 385, Surveys and Souvenirs: American World's Fairs 1876-1939, on view in the Vassar College Art Library March 12-June 29, 2018. "Sell the cookstove if necessary," novelist Hamlin Garland wrote to his parents in 1893; "You must see the fair." Garland's comment captures the excitement and urgency that drew 27 million visitors to the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, one of several world's fairs that dominated American cultural life around the turn of the century. From 1876 to 1039, over 15 world's fairs opened in American cities, showcasing the nation's industry and art, and introducing Americans to a world of foreign goods and accomplishments. Drawn chiefly from materials in the Archives and Special Collections Library at Vassar College, this exhibition presents the rich material culture of American world's fairs, from surveys and guidebooks to photogaphs, children's literature, poster stamps, and souvenirs. Many of these objects tell official stories from the fairs, promoting messages of American progress, imperial expansion, or scientific advancement. They also tell more personal stories, as material objects that were used, gifted, inscribed, and collected. Together, they paint a vivid picture of American world's fairs during a time of intense national growth and consolidation, as the country celebrated its centennial, closed its Western frontier, and arrived at the eve of World War II.