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A Fair to Remember: The Impact of World's Fairs on Progress in Art and Science

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Meryl Ann Butler     Permalink
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However, the stunning seascape was actually stitched with silk thread, nearly a century ago.

Chris Potash, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for the Allentown Art Museum, which loaned the screen, notes that "The "Wave Screen,' as we call it, has been incredibly popular with our visitors whenever we have it on display, and we hear it's been a big hit at the Nelson-Atkins as well. It's a beautiful, staggeringly skillful work of textile art."  

Detail, silk and wood screen. by Allentown Art Museum

Before the internet, world's fairs or expositions, were the hub for the exciting exchange of the newest ideas. Co-curator, Catherine L. Futter notes, ""these international events allowed diplomats, manufacturers, designers, artisans, and an enthusiastic public to have immediate and direct experience with objects, materials, technologies, and peoples from around the world."

The telephone, the sewing machine, the Eiffel Tower and the Ferris Wheel were all premiered at a world's fair.

Ferris Wheel by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.; 1893 Chicago Exposition by Public Domain

The Stereoscope debuted at the 1851 London fair.

Dr. Dan and Beth Redwood try out the Stereoscope and View Master by Meryl Ann Butler

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View-Master brought 3D into the 20th century at the 1939 New York fair. Stereoscopes and View Masters are available in the gallery so visitors can enjoy experiencing this nostalgic technology.

The catalogue accompanying the exhibit notes: "Alfred T. Goshorn, director-general of the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition, remarked years later on the fair's legacy;

'They tend to raise each of the cooperating nations to the level of the highest in artistic, industrial, and scientific advancement.'"

by Meryl Ann Butler

The exhibit was co-curated by Jason T. Busch, the Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts and head of department at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and Catherine L. Futter, the Helen Jane and Hugh "Pat" Uhlmann Curator of Decorative Arts at the Nelson-Atkins.

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Ms. Futter noted, "the overarching theme is innovation. Every object was the newest, most modern work of its time."

Catherine L. Futter by Nelson-Atkins Museum

I asked Ms. Futter a few questions about the exhibit:

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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