LSU Union Gallery show looks at more than a century of American World’s Fairs

Some of greatest things since sliced bread were introduced there.

This is saying a lot, since sliced bread was introduced there, too.

That’s what the World’s Fair was all about, debuting the future. Or what was thought to be the future.

The dish maker that created dishes on demand never caught on, but the nylon stockings were a hit, as was the Ferris wheel.

There’s a framed engraving of that first Ferris wheel in the LSU Student Union Gallery. It’s part of the exhibit, Centuries of Progress: American World’s Fairs, 1853-1984, which runs through Sunday, July 28.

The show offers an overview of more than a century of American World’s Fairs through more than 130 objects, photographs and ephemera detailing progress, promotion and public response.

“We added the 1984 World’s Fair, because that was the last one held in New Orleans,” Judi Stahl, gallery director, said.

Stahl was joined by graduate curatorial assistant Lexie Guillory, who helped gallery curator Hugh O’Connor install the exhibit.

“We ended the show with the Louisiana World Exposition, but the exhibit begins with overview of the world’s fairs and how they were laid out,” Guillory said.

And it all begins with the 1853 Crystal Palace exhibition in New York.

None of the artifacts in this show is a reproduction. This is a traveling exhibition organized by the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Del., and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance and The National Endowment for the Arts.

The show is divided into six categories: “Progress is a Way of Life,” which introduces the idea behind the fairs; “Marketplace of Ideas,” discussing the debut of new technologies; “Consumerism,” presenting the fair-goers’ reactions; “Art, Architechure and Music and Popular Amusements,” illustrating entertainment options; and “Remembering the Fair,” displaying commemorative souvenirs.

The fairs were places where visitors looked into the future.

And walked away knowing that they had seen some of the greatest inventions since, well, sliced bread.