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The History of World's Fairs

World’s Fairs have excited and inspired millions of people around the world by expressing the hopes and desires of their times. Perhaps unwittingly, they also provide a fascinating glimpse into the realities of those same times.

Ever since the first world’s fair in London in 1851, the goals of world’s fairs have been both high-minded as well as commercial. They also allow people to explore the world outside of their everyday experience — outside cultures, new scientific advancements, and new inventions.

As times change, world expositions have changed to fit those times. They continue to reflect both the commercial needs of their times while presenting the ideals, hopes, and aspirations of people even as those evolve.

One of the primary goals of world’s fairs is to entertain.
Both the amusement zones and pavilions in world’s fairs have evolved over time. As people have more and more entertainment options, world expositions have continued to find new ways to provide information and inspiration in new ways.

The history of world’s fairs is also a history of people claiming them dead.
We certainly have seen this recently as people claim that television and now the Internet have made world’s fairs obsolete — that we have now finally exhausted the potential to entertain, enlighten, and inspire outside of one’s own home.

We believe that world expositions are changing and will continue to change with the times. There will always be new ways to inspire, new ways to enlighten, new ways to entertain. We also can’t discount the attraction of experiencing something new as part of a group, a community.

I think another reason people think they're dead, at least in the United States, is because we haven't had one in the United States since 1984 and haven't had on in North America since 1986. Most Americans aren't aware that there have been eleven world's fairs since the Louisiana World Exposition in 1984.

World’s fairs are still important.
They are related to both the Olympics and the United Nations in many ways, but world’s fairs are unique in that the everyday person can experience them firsthand, not just athletes or politicians. Anyone can enter that expo site and feel a part of something new, feel a part of the world community, feel what potential man has for doing good in the world.

Perhaps that should be the mission of world expositions now— to make us even the slightest bit less cynical about the world and to let us feel we are a part of that world—and you can rarely experience that from your television or computer.

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