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World’s Fairs have often been sites for artistic, architectural, and technological innovation, giving us glimpses of “The World of Tomorrow”. In this new series from Curious Minds favourite Dr. Peter Harris (La Belle Epoque, The Sixties: From Berkeley to Berlin), we’ll take an exciting journey through the National Pavilions and “Midways” of six iconic World’s Fairs, examining the important roles they played as incubators for cultural trends and ideas, reflecting the major social and political currents of their time. As we travel from Victorian England to Paris and New York in the Art Deco era to the cultural watershed of Expo ‘67 in Montreal, we’ll examine the unique collision of entertainment, innovation and ideas at these era-defining events.

Led by Peter Harris, the former Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science of the University of Toronto.

Registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)


Lecture 1: The Great Exhibition of 1851
In 1851 the first international fair, The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, was held in London, in a huge glass and iron structure nicknamed the Crystal Palace. Millions of visitors flocked to see this display of Britain at the height of her industrial power.

Lecture 2: Centennial Republic Celebrations: Philadelphia in 1876 and Paris in 1889
At the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition, Americans could see how their country stacked up against the rest of the world – while sipping a new-fangled drink: Hires root beer. The Paris Exposition Universelle gave the world Eiffel’s “monstrosity,” now the famous symbol of the city. And adding to the allure was the wild nightlife of Montmartre’s moulin rouge and folies bergere…

Lecture 3: Chicago in 1893 and Paris in 1900
The beaux arts style of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition inspired the ‘City Beautiful’ movement. And it also gave a unique answer to the Eiffel Tower: the Ferris Wheel! Despite tumultuous politics of the time, Paris pulled off its biggest World’s Fair ever – close to 60 million visitors, more than the whole French population. And these visitors could arrive via the brand new Métro, with its stylish art nouveau stations.

Lecture 4: Paris in 1925 and New York City in 1939-40
The 1925 Fair launched Art Déco, a style that quickly caught on around the world – and especially in North America. NYC’s 1939 World’s Fair offered a glimpse into The World of Tomorrow, a future in which the new middle class would reign, reveling in new inventions like television, nylons, air conditioning and fluorescent lights.

Lecture 5: Brussels Expo 58: the Cold War Fair
Expo 58 was the first World’s Fair since New York’s in 1939 (fairs in Los Angeles, Tokyo and Rome were all cancelled due to WWII). Its motto was “Technology in the Service of Man”, but this noble idea was overshadowed by domestic and international events during the Cold War.

Lecture 6: Expo 67' Montréal 
As the feature event of Canada’s Centennial, Expo 67 sent a surge of patriotic pride through the country. The Fair’s futuristic architecture and fascinating national pavilions lent an air of excitement that even Charles de Gaulle's outrageous "Vive le Québec libre" could not dampen – who doesn’t remember singing that goofy earworm “CA – NA –DA”??!

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