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Library Journal, May 2016

CONTENT This unique digital collection provides “researchers with full-color primary source material from hundreds of Fairs” spanning 1851–2015, using “official records, monographs, publicity, artwork and artifacts.”

Material is specifically culled from sources such as the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley; the Bibliothèque nationale de France; Hagley Museum and Library, DE; Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Library and Archives of Canada; the National Archives, UK; the New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division; and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Helpfully, Adam Matthew provides a brief summary and link to each institution, allowing users to perform further research.

While material about every major world fair is available, there are nine case-study exhibitions that are considered to be the most important, historically: London’s 1851 Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, also referred to as the Great Exhibition; the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia; the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris; Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition; the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the St. Louis World’s Fair; the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco; Chicago’s Century of Progress International Exposition 1933–34; the 1939–40 New York World’s Fair; and the 1967 International and Universal Exposition (Expo 67) in Montreal.

Users can register for a free account to save copies of images and documents. These stored items are available each time one logs into the resource.

USABILITY Adam Matthew makes finding specific information simple with this collection. A banner at the top of the homepage lists headings—Introduction, Fairs, Documents, Explore, Image Gallery, and Help—alongside a search box. Just below the search box on the top right is a link to advanced and popular searches. The former allows for Boolean operators, phrase searching, wildcards, word proximity, and word stemming.

There is also the option to limit the search by fair title, personal names, date, document type, countries, archives, and case studies. Most personal names in the results are hyperlinked to permit instant searching of all references of that name. Also, locations and fair names and attractions are hyperlinked for ease of access. Browsing the collection is accomplished by clicking one of the main headings and then choosing a subheading. Each item is indexed “so that they can be browsed by the hundreds of Fairs that are represented in this resource.”

By selecting the “introduction,” researchers can find the editorial board of the ­collection, the content’s nature, scope, and copyright information. Selecting “fairs” on the top banner results in the following options: Fairs, Fairs Search Directory, and Attractions Search Directory. From the “fairs” page users can access the nine case studies. The Fairs Search Directory leads to a easy-to-navigate listing of all World Fairs. When selecting one or multiple fairs, information about each event is displayed in a separate box on the right side of the page. There is an option to search only items related to that festival (or multiple exhibits, if selected). The Attractions Search Directory works in the same manner.

The aptly titled “documents” section offers a full list of articles in the database. Examples include a one-franc ticket to the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, a booklet of facts from the New York World’s Fair, and a brochure titled “70 Years of Good Eating” from the 1939–40 San Francisco Fair. Once an item is selected, researchers can view thumbnail images, download the entire file as PDF, download just the images as PDF, rotate the content, and copy or export citations in MLA format.

Under the “explore” heading are several subheadings, such as Essays, Sound Recordings, Key Exhibits, Biographies, Popular Searches, and External Links. The scholarly essays are available in full text, downloadable as PDFs, printable, and citations are available in MLA, Harvard, and Chicago styles. Similar to the rest of the archive, these subheadings are easy to navigate and peruse.

The “image gallery” contains two subsections: Visual Highlights, which lets users download images from any or all of the fairs to their Lightbox (creating an account is required for this option); and the 360 Object Gallery, a smaller feature that highlights interactive images. For example, the Christopher Columbus pocket knife from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition can be spun and examined from multiple angles.

Lastly, the “help” feature is very useful thanks to the Page by Page Guide (PPG) and Teaching section, both of which provide exceptional support for librarians. The PPG features a screenshot of each aspect of the entire collection and shows how to use each page and tool within the resource.
The “teaching” page explains how to use the database and offers practical advice on posting the links in various online teaching platforms such as Blackboard. Also included here are answers about fair use copyright and sharing images, a valuable guide for any public or academic librarian.

VERDICT Based on content and usability, this file is recommended for all libraries as “a vital research tool for teachers and students of globalization, imperialism, anthropology, mass communication and design” as well as patrons interested in history, architecture, inventions and innovators, and technology. 

Jason L. Steagall
Library Journal, May 2016

American Reference Books Annual, August 2016

     The World’s Fairs archive is a delightful treasure trove of information dedicated to World Fairs and Expositions. World Fairs and Exhibitions were the impetus and stage for experimentation, innovation, ostentation, and progress in science, engineering, industry, and social progress. Iconic places that are now part of the fabric of our landscapes and lives owe their existence to or made their debut at a world fair: the Eiffel Tower, the Space Needle, light bulbs, X-rays, and television—to name just a few things. Therefore, this online archive covers multiple disciplines offering views on the subjects through a variety of formats including official records, personal accounts, oral histories, diary entries, photographs, maps, and ephemera. The collection is sourced from 13 archives in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France.

     While the collection includes over 200 fairs, it focuses on nine fairs as case studies. The collection also includes information from fairs all over the world, but its particular strength is on Northern European and North American expositions during the years from 1880 to 1920, a time known as the "golden age" of expositions.

     The archive is easy to navigate and is organized into sections by tabs. The document collection is accessed through the Documents tab which allows users to search the collection by keyword and filter by document type, country, and participating archive. Document types include correspondence, sheet music, and government reports, among several options. The collection also features a number of 360 objects, allowing users to zoom and rotate images of 3D objects such as souvenir cups. Each document or object is thoroughly and carefully described by title, date, place, fair, owning archive (for copyright), and description of visual content if applicable. Each object is represented with a high-quality image that can be examined and saved.

     In addition to the large document/object collection, the archive provides several ways to browse and explore the collection through additional tabs. The Introduction tab includes the "Editor’s Choice" a collection of four objects the editors believe to be extremely unique but also indicative of the collection and its research potential as a whole. One of these objects is a satirical board game from the Great Exhibition of 1851 in which players collect countries while moving around a board decorated with stereotypically represented people and cultures.

     The Fairs tab focuses exclusively on the nine fairs chosen as case studies and considered to be representative of the most influential exhibitions. It is like an archive within the archive. This tab is especially useful for the informative and engaging descriptions of each fair. The descriptions are peppered throughout with hyperlinks to documents in the collection. 

     The Explore tab provides links to academic essays, sound recordings, biographies, and interactive site plans. The sound recordings are quite interesting and include radio broadcasts, music performed at the fair site, interviews of attendees, and an address by President Grover Whalen.

     The Essays tab includes seven academic essays that demonstrate the research value of the collection in action. The Key Exhibits link under the Explore tab offers a way to browse the collection by subject identified by the editorial board as common and important across all the fairs including aeronautics, Fashion & Beauty, Transportation, Art & Architecture, Lifestyle, and Electricity.

     World's Fairs is highly recommended due to its uniqueness, depth, scope, and quality of presentation. It offers a fresh, relevant, and engaging angle for exploring the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is intended for mature or academic audiences. Academic libraries looking for an attention-grabbing and high-quality resource to offer history, sociology, gender studies, and art and design departments will be thrilled to add World's Fairs.

Kristin Kay Leeman
American Reference Books Annual, August 2016

Booklist, April 2016

World's Fairs offer an interesting insight into modern history. They serve as a snapshot of the times.

This resource offers artwork, monographs, official documentation and records, publicity materials, and sound recordings from hundreds of fairs, sourced from a variety of library and archives and oral histories of attendees. Sample material includes pamphlets such as 100 Selected Dried Fruit Recipes Chosen by 100,000 Homemakers at Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco); gorgeous posters, postcards, and calendars from a number of the fairs; and sheet music written expressly for the fairs.

Additional material includes case studies of nine significant fairs, interactive site plans providing users with an immersive experience for five key fairs and curated collections of visual content - where users could spend hours exploring.

Access to the material is intuitive, with tabs at the top leading to the "Introduction", "Fairs", "Documents", "Explore", "Image Gallery" and "Help". There are also links to the advanced search tools and popular searches. Images may be downloaded, printed and photocopied for educational purposes.

This database is suitable for historic research by high-school and college students and for scholarly research - and the general user with an interest in history will find much to enjoy here as well.

Rebecca Vnuk
Booklist, April 2016

CHOICE, December 2016

[Visited Sep'16]  This extensive online resource compiles official records, monographs, personal accounts, sound recordings, and ephemera from 13 archives, including the national archives of Canada, the UK, and France. Materials from over 200 exhibitions are included in the database, with nine world's fairs receiving special treatment because of the large quantity of material available for each. These case-study fairs range from the first one—the 1851 Great Exhibition held at the Crystal Palace in London—to the 1933–34 Chicago Exposition and Expo '67 in Montreal. Users can access a wealth of materials from each of these iconic fairs, identified with a unique symbol in the database for easy identification when browsing. Five of them (Paris 1889, London 1851, Chicago 1893, New York 1939–40, and Montreal 1967) also include interactive site plans.

A comparable resource offered by Gale/Cengage Learning is Smithsonian Collections Online: World's Fairs and Expositions, Visions of Tomorrow (CH, Jan'15, 52-2328), but Adam Matthew's superior interface and attention to metadata offer more ways to access content. A free-text search box appears in the header on every screen as do links to Advanced Search options and searches performed by other users. The Popular Searches section features lists of keywords (e.g., architecture, Native Americans, etc.), products (cellophane, fertilizer), and personal names. Two directories—of fairs and attractions (e.g., Adler Planetarium, Ripley's Odditorium)—permit users to perform searches based on single or multiple selections. One may also browse the entire database, using limiters for document type, case study, country, or originating archive and sorting results by title, date, fair, or archive.

Clicking on a title or thumbnail image brings up a good-quality metadata record; thumbnails may be clicked to view the high-resolution original images, which may be magnified or viewed in full-screen mode. Some records collocate multiple items such as brochures and other ephemera. Each clearly states the originating archive and any associated rights statements (copyrights have not been transferred to the publisher). From the metadata page, one may perform a full-text search of the document itself, access citation information, and download entire documents or individual pages. Users may also add the item to My Archive, a feature that requires registering for an account and permits storing searches, images, and documents for later access. The database also includes interpretive essays, information about specific types of fair exhibits, and brief biographies of notable people associated with the fairs. Two special galleries highlight images of particular interest in the database and objects that can be examined in a 360-degree rotational viewer. 

World's Fairs 
is an excellent online resource providing well-organized access to high-quality digitized archival materials. Users at all levels will find it relevant to research in history, sociology, cultural and tourism studies, and other fields.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates through researchers/faculty.

H. Corbett, Northeastern University
CHOICE, December 2016

Reference Reviews, November 2016

What do the typewriter, the telephone, and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer have in common? They all debuted at World’s Fairs, large exhibitions showcasing the host cities, countries, and people of their time, as well as the promise of capitalist enterprise. Practically book-ending the rise and fall of industrialization in the West, the era of the World’s Fair reflected the optimism of the industrialist, that regardless of the unrest caused by labour disputes, pollution-filled slums, and the rapid decline of the skilled trades, the West (despite the appellation, the fairs were until recently confined mostly to North America and Western Europe) could put on a show that washed away the unsavory aspects of capitalism and celebrated the promise of an ever more convenient future.

Adam Matthew Digital’s World’s Fairs: A Global History of Expositions showcases the
items and narratives from a variety of exhibitions. An aggregated collection from an array of archival collections, it is easy for anyone with even a passing interest in fairs to
get lost in in the site, which is full of fascinating ephemera scanned to create high resolution images associated with the exhibitions. The site’s layout makes it rather easy to search for specific documents, allowing users to conduct a federated search across fairs, or search within individual fairs, as well as search for specific content type.

Read the full review here.

Bart Everts, Librarian of Practice, Rutgers University-Camden
Reference Reviews, November 2016