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Authors : Alexander C.T. Geppert, Tammy Lau
Title: History of International Exhibitions, 1851-1951: A New Web Resource
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
April 2001

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Source: History of International Exhibitions, 1851-1951: A New Web Resource
Alexander C.T. Geppert, Tammy Lau

vol. 4, no. 1, April 2001
Article Type: Site Review

History of International Exhibitions, 1851-1951: A New Web Resource

Alexander C.T. Geppert and Tammy Lau

In recent years, both the alleged globalization avant la lettre and the anticipation of contemporary visual-virtual worlds in nuce which can be observed here, has led to increased historiographical interest in the history of international exhibitions and world's fairs. These "spaces of modernity" are indeed now widely regarded as a central feature of Western cultural history whose popular impact was anything but ephemeral. As a consequence, the field has grown tremendously and now involves disciplines as diverse as History, Cultural Geography, Urban Studies, Art History and the History of Architecture, among others. [1] This development, however, has made it increasingly difficult to locate appropriate research sources. To aid in that process, early this February, "International Exhibitions, Expositions Universelles and World's Fairs, 1851-1951: A Bibliography" was officially launched. It is accessible on the Internet at the "Theory of Architecture" web site of Brandenburgische Technische Universität in Cottbus, Germany as part of their journal Wolkenkuckucksheim: Internationale Zeitschrift für Theorie und Wissenschaft der Architektur ( [2] The bibliography can also be viewed as a pdf file with Adobe Acrobat Reader software on the web site of the Donald G. Larson Collection on International Expositions and Fairs, 1851-1940, Special Collections Library, California State University, Fresno ( As a result of an international collaboration between the European University Institute in Florence, California State University, Fresno and Brandenburgische Technische Universität, Cottbus, this bibliography is the most comprehensive and most current list on the topic, as far as it's known.

The bibliography includes over 100 different expositions held in more than twenty countries, from Jamaica to Japan. Although it includes expositions held all over the world, the bibliography is strongest on exhibitions and fairs held in North America and Western Europe (e.g. for the Great Exhibition of 1851 alone there are 80 entries, and for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, more than 150 entries). For the most part, only international fairs and expositions whose goals went beyond just commercial concerns and involved more than one country have been included. References for fairs before 1851 and after 1951 are sporadic at best and are not intended to be complete.

The list is limited to scholarly secondary sources; at this stage, primary sources are excluded. Nevertheless, in its print version, it encompasses more than 50 pages and consists of almost 1,200 bibliographic entries. The list starts with a detailed table of contents whose constituent parts are hyperlinked to their pertinent sections, followed by research aids and general works and then the main body of the bibliography. This main section is organized first by country, then by exposition in chronological order and finally alphabetically by author/title. Each entry is numbered for easy reference.

In order to reach the widest possible audience, the bibliography was mounted on two different university web sites, one in Europe and the other in the United States of America. Through the Wolkenkuckucksheim (Cottbus) site, it can be read or downloaded. The bibliography can also be printed out in its entirety by either downloading the file from the Cottbus site or by using the version on the CSU, Fresno site. However, in either version, word or phrase searching is possible. On the Wolkenkuckucksheim site, searching is section by section. On the Fresno site, the entire document is searched. Readers are advised to check the general Exhibition History section in addition to the one specific for the country in which they are interested as the less specialized, more fundamental works can be found there. Whenever an item concerned expositions in more than one country, it was classified in this general section (cf. Section 3.3: Exhibition History). If an item dealt with several expositions in a single country, it was classified in the General section for that nation.

One of the bibliography's greatest assets is the fact that it is kept as current as possible, capitalizing on the worldwide accessibility and immediacy of web documents. The bibliography is updated several times a year and enhanced on an ongoing basis to make it as useful and user-friendly as possible. The next edition of the bibliography is already in the planning stages. One of the most important enhancements planned is the transformation of the bibliography into a fully searchable database with descriptive keywords. This will refine searching for pertinent sources within the list way beyond a simple word or phrase search, which is all that is possible now. The goal is to preserve the list as a list for those who wish to simply browse through it. However, embedding searchable keywords into the metadata for each entry will facilitate a thematic, problem-oriented and transnational approach to searching and will take the bibliography to a whole new level. Moreover, this new edition will also contain a number of links to exhibition resources that are available on the web.

It is intended to make this web-based bibliography the best resource on world's fair literature and scholarship. So far, reactions on part of the international scholarly community have been overwhelmingly positive, illustrating how much a resource such as this was needed. In the first month alone, together the two sites have been accessed more than 1,600 times. As the work continues, additions, suggestions or comments are always very welcome.

1. For comprehensive review articles cf. Robert W. Rydell: The Literature of International Expositions, in: Smithsonian Institution Libraries: The Books of the Fairs: Materials about World's Fairs, 1834-1916, in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Chicago 1992: American Library Association, 1-62, and more recently Alexander C.T. Geppert: Deutschland und die Welt: Die Geschichte des europäischen Ausstellungswesens im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Ein Forschungsbericht, in: Neue Politische Literatur 46 (2001), forthcoming. Special thanks to Serge Noiret for making the initial contact with JAHC.

2. The bibliography can be cited in two ways: Alexander C.T. Geppert, Jean Coffey and Tammy Lau: International Exhibitions, Expositions Universelles and World's Fairs, 1851-1951: A Bibliography, in: Wolkenkuckucksheim: Internationale Zeitschrift für Theorie und Wissenschaft der Architektur (Special Issue, 2000), URL:, or: Alexander C.T. Geppert, Jean Coffey and Tammy Lau: International Exhibitions, Expositions Universelles and World'sFairs,1851-1951:a Bibliography. URL:

Please contact:

Alexander C.T. Geppert at

or Tammy Lau at