World's Fairs

A Global History of Expositions

Explore two centuries of innovation, entertainment and international relations through the rich history of world’s fairs.

From the Eiffel Tower and the Space Needle to the invention of television, chewing gum and hot dogs, world’s fairs have shaped our world. This resource digitises primary source material from hundreds of fairs – a vital collection for students of globalisation, imperialism, anthropology, mass communication, design and more.

This digital resource offers a unique insight into the phenomenon of international expositions. Over 200 world’s fairs and exhibitions, spanning 1829-2015, are represented through a range of primary sources. From planning committees to public reception and the legacy that remains, the impact of these global events can be examined in a comprehensive context.

World’s Fairs is a vital resource for students, teachers and researchers of a huge range of subjects including imperialism, race relations, gender studies, science and technology, consumer culture, architecture, design and more.

Key Data

Period Covered

  • 1851-1967


  • Documents from more than 200 fairs including the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851 and the Milan Expo 2015
  • Case studies of nine of the most significant fairs offer in-depth analysis of their impact and legacy, including the 1851 Great Exhibition, London, 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition and 1939/40 New York World’s Fair.
  • A wealth of visual material including souvenir objects, photographs, posters and plans.

Source Archives

  • Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
  • Bibliothèque nationale de France
  • Hagley Museum and Library
  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  • Library and Archives Canada
  • Missouri Historical Society
  • New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division
  • Special Collections Research Center, Henry Madden Library, California State University, Fresno
  • Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
  • The National Archives, UK
  • The Newberry Library, Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Chicago Library, Special Collections
  • Victoria and Albert Museum

Material Types

  • Fair Committee records, minutes
  • and correspondence
  • Official catalogues and guide books
  • Exhibit pamphlets
  • Photographs and slides
  • Maps and plans
  • Souvenir artefacts
  • Audio interviews with attendees

Editorial Board

  • Tracey Jean Boisseau, Purdue University
  • Cristina Carbone, University of Louisville
  • Sarah Coletta, Montana State University
  • Peter Hoffenberg, University of Hawaii
  • Donald G. Larson, Founder of the Donald G. Larson Collection on International Expositions and Fairs
  • Robert W. Rydell, Montana State University
  • Michelle Warren, Dartmouth College


  • Anthropology and ethnology
  • Design and architecture
  • Mass communication
  • Imperial history
  • Globalisation and transnationalism
  • Entertainment
  • Travel and tourism
  • Innovation and design
  • Science and technology
  • Urbanisation

Key Features

  • Essays from consultant academics provide pathways into the collections
  • Interactive site plans
  • Oral histories
  • 3D artefacts
  • In-depth guide to key exhibits


Recommended for all libraries as a vital research tool for teachers and students of globalisation, imperialism, anthropology, mass communication and design

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 ......

World's Fairs is highly recommended due to its uniqueness, depth, scope, and quality of presentation

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, ......

World's Fairs offer an interesting insight into modern history

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 ......

Highly recommended. Undergraduates through researchers/faculty

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. ......

An aggregated collection from an array of archival collections

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 ......