World's Fairs, World Views, and the Troubling Story of Human Zoos

29 September 2017
  • 06:00 - 08:00
  • Friday, September 29, 2017
    6 p.m.
    McNeely Hall 100

    All lectures are free and open to the public and handicap accessible.
    For accessibility requests: (651): 962-6315

    Parking is available in the Anderson Parking Facility, corner of Grand and Cretin avenues.
    Location and parking directions:

Please join us as Dr. Robert Rydell, Professor of History and Director of the Humanities Institute at Montana State University, presents "World's Fairs, World Views, and the Troubling Story of Human Zoos."

Dr. Rydell's talk is the keynote address for the Eighth Annual Art History Graduate Student Research Symposium, Exhibiting Power, and the first lecture in Exhibiting Power: 2017-2018 Department of Art History Speaker Series.

Despite the upcoming 2020 world's fair in Dubai, most Americans think of world's fairs as cultural dinosaurs - a once noble, but now extinct form of cultural representation. Contrary to popular belief, world's fairs are certainly not extinct. But how should we think about their history? This lecture will examine the "golden era" of world's fairs, especially US fairs, in the period between the 1851 London Crystal Palace Exhibition and the 1939-40 New York World's Fair when nearly one billion people attended these cultural spectacles and saw the world represented right before their eyes. Rightly regarded as sites for advancing technological innovations, world's fairs also featured ethnological exhibitions of people from Europe's and America's colonial and territorial possessions. These "human zoos" underpinned various national imperial projects; they also nurtured considerable resistance from indigenous people who performed as part of the ethnological displays. In so many ways, the world's fairs of yesteryear became staging grounds for what lay ahead, namely the modern world we inhabit today.

Special thanks to the History Department for co-sponsoring this event.