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Past Event: Inaugural Symposium,
24-25 March 2022

‘International Expositions: Looking to the Past, Seeing the Future.’ 

The 2022 symposium brought scholars and enthusiasts together to generate new ideas about the history and legacy of international expositions. The symposium sought to emphasize new and developing strategies for research, curation, and preservation to maximize outreach opportunities.

Keynote Speakers 2022

Robert Rydell ISIE keynote.jpg

Robert Rydell

Department of History, Montana State University

Further Reflections on World’s Fair Scholarship

The study of world’s fairs is nothing like it was in 1975 when I was beginning my doctoral work on international expositions. Today, it is safe to say that world’s fair studies are no longer ephemeral (to repurpose a key term once deployed by Paul Greenhalgh to describe world’s fairs themselves).  Indeed, the study of these festivals of modernity has become a field in its own right and a core undertaking in many academic disciplines. Several scholars have taken stock of this work.  I have done so in my “Books of the Fairs” (1992) and “New Directions for Scholarship about World Expos” (2008). And there is the monumental bibliography compiled by Alexander Geppert, Jean Coffey, and Tammy Lau (2006) as well as the essays in John Findling and Kimberly Pelle’s Encyclopedia of World’s Fairs and Expositions (2008). To my knowledge, there has not been a comprehensive overview of what scholars have accomplished over the last decade and I won’t attempt to provide one in my brief remarks for this symposium. But I do want to share some reflections about recent scholarship on international expositions and offer some thoughts about some possible future directions.


Robert Rydell is Emeritus Professor of History and American Studies at Montana State University. Beginning with All the World’s A Fair (1984), he has published extensively on the history of world fairs, especially about their centrality for embedding racism and imperialism into the political cultures of modern nation-states. Along with Rob Kroes, he organized a major research project at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study on the reception of American mass culture in Europe. He also served as guest curator for the exhibition Designing Tomorrow: America's World’s Fairs in the 1930 and editor for the related book (Yale U. Press, 2010).

Symposium Program

All times EDT

24-25 March

Day 1

10:00 Introduction and Introductory Keynote – Robert Rydell

Further Reflections on World’s Fair Scholarship


11:00 Keynote Sudesh Mantillake

Navigating Strange Spaces: Sri Lankan Performers in Colonial Exhibitions 

12:00 Session 1A: Expositions as Geopolitical Spaces 

Session chair: James Fortuna (University of St Andrews)

Charlotte Rottiers (KU Leuven) – “From the Rue des Nations to the Rue des Legations: The pavilion and the diplomatic building as instruments in the Belgian Foreign Policy (1880’s-1914)”


Emily Gunzburger Makas (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) – “Bosnia-Hercegovina at Paris 1900: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Pan-Slavism”


Constanza A. Robles Sepúlveda (Boston University) – “Visualizing Alliances through Art and Architecture: The Pan American Exposition in Buffalo (1901)”


Larisa Mantovani (Centro de Investigaciones en Arte y Patrimonio (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas - Universidad Nacional de San Martín)) – “Artistic industries and yerba mate: the Argentine pavilion at the Paris Exposition of 1937”

14:00 Session 1B: Expositions and Empire

Session chair: Van Troi Tran (Université Laval)

Emma Laube (The Ohio State University) – “The 1937 Paris Expo: Was China There? Publishers, Governments, and Visual Culture on the Global Stage”


Peter Clericuzio (Edinburgh) – “A Synecdoche of Empire: International Expositions and the Great Mosque of Djenné”
Rikke Lie Halberg (Lund University) – “The Danish West Indies at the 'World Expo' in Copenhagen 1888 and Beyond”

15:30 Session 1C: Expositions and Environment

Session chair: Guido Cimadomo (University of Málaga)


Rafael Ortiz Martínez de Carnero (University of Seville) – “European International Expositions in the last decade of the Twentieth Century: The transition from classic Expo models to a new ecological and sustainable sensitivity”
Guido Cimadomo (Universidad de Málaga), Renzo Lecardane (Università di Palermo) – Prolonging the Magic: From Ephemerality to Translatability”

Deanna L. Nord (Nord Strategy Group) "From Utopian Vision to a Legacy of Action:  How a World’s Fair Can Accelerate Health Equity and Sustainability"

17:00 Keynote Sarah Moore

Classical Temple of Unhewn Logs: World’s Fair in the Wilderness 1909

18:00 ISIE Roundtable

Join us in helping to shape the future directions of ISIE and exposition scholarship

19:00 Thematic Breakout Rooms

Connect with colleagues with similar Expo interests.

Day 2

10:00 Keynote Van Troi Tran

Passports, pins, plushies and peddlers: the material life of the Shanghai World Expo   


11:00 Session 2A: Expositions and Material Culture

Session chair: Sarah Moore  (University of Arizona)

Christina Hellmich (de Young Museum) – “The 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and San Francisco”
Sara Albuquerque and  Angela Salgueiro (University of Evora) – “Glimpses of the colonial collections at the 1862 London Exhibition: The case of the Angolan ‘Objects’ at the Portuguese section”
Avigail Moss (University of Southern California) – “Valued Risks: Insuring Fine and Applied Art at International Exhibitions”

13:00 Session 2B: Re-evaluating the Exposition City 

Session chair: Lisa Schrenk (University of Arizona)

David Roberts (University of Newcastle) – “Spaceframes: population and allegory in Expo ’70 Osaka”

Sofia Quiroga Fernandez (Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University [XJTLU]) – “The EAT Research centre collaboration in the 1970 Osaka World Exhibition”

Stefania Portinari (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice) – “Mapping the Unpredictable: An Atlas of Expanded Geographies. Pavilions of Power and Imagination at the Venice Biennale”

15:00 Session 2C: Open Session

Session chair: Laura Hollengreen (University of Arizona)

Alice Nogueira Alves (Universidade de Lisboa) – “The Paris Universal Exhibition of 1878/79 seen by the Portuguese writer Ramalho Ortigão”

Jyoti Mohan (University of Maryland) – “Reversing the Gaze: Indians at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition”
Bobby Schweizer, Rebecca Rouse (Texas Tech University) – “Amusement Identities on the Midway, Pike, Gayway and Beyond”

Martina Motta (Politecnico di Torino) – "The aquarium and the city"

17:00 Closing Keynote: Mark Ritchie

Bringing the World Expo Movement Back to America

18:00 Closing Remarks / Social  Breakout Rooms

Past Event:
ISIE’s Speakers Series:
New Perspectives on National Pavilions at World Fairs
Inaugural Lecture: 'National Pavilions for International Consumption:
Japan as Case Study'

Alice Y. Tseng
Boston University

26 January 2
023, 6pm EST
(27 January 2023, 8am JST)

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Lecture Description

As one of the most prolific participants in world’s fairs large and small starting in the 1860s up to 1940, Japan thrived on building national pavilions that repackaged historical models, types, and styles more so than offering original, up-to-date architecture. As a foreign participant rather than the host country, it played the role of Other in fact and metaphor. This presentation examines serial performances of ideas of a unified nation, culture, and race in Japan’s exhibition architecture. The variety, rather than coherence, of architectural representation during these decades demonstrates the plurality of sources and means for defining Japanese unity. The presentation’s coda offers a long look at Japanese national pavilion design since 1940 to today, noting continuing efforts to materialize Japanese culture, authenticity, and tradition writ large through architecture. The emphasis on producing explicitly “Japanese” architecture overseas and for an unknowing, possibly unsympathetic, audience is a problematic concept born of nineteenth-century exposition culture; nonetheless, to build a national pavilion in the politicized gathering of nations and peoples was and remains a powerful act of autonomy, no matter how mangled the expressions. 

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