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Istituto per i Beni Culturali Emilia-Romagna

Memoria e Ricerca

Transatlantic Transfers at Universal Exhibitions, 1851-1940

di Angela Schwarz
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 17 (2004), p. 65

From its very beginnings in 1851, the medium of universal expositions claimed to assemble the whole world in one place, thus to be truly global. The more often people from different countries met to see the nations’ economic and cultural prowess, the medium exposition itself acquired a canon of standardized elements, a kind of exhibition language that people of different national or cultural origin could easily decode. Where did a specific element originate? How did it re-appear in a following exhibition? Why did organizers and exhibitors incorporate a certain element typical of a previous exposition in their own event? Thus, this article examines the transfer of such features, as it occurred between the world’s fairs in Europe and in the United States, from the 1851 Great Exhibition through the world’s fair held in New York at the onset of the Second World War. It delineates the most important characteristics adopted along five main categories: (1) aims and intentions, (2) forms of organisation, (3) architecture, (4) technologies, and (5) persons.