The Second Annual DAR Museum World's Fair

Written by: Katie Cannon, Curator of Education, and Hayley Prihoda, Assistant Curator of Education
August 28, 2018

The DAR Museum’s second annual World’s Fair on Saturday, August 3rd was a resounding success! Nearly 1,000 visitors joined us for a fun-filled day of crafts, games, scavenger hunts, and more.

You may be wonderingwhy host this event at the DAR Museum?

The event took inspiration from two turn-of-the-century World’s Fairs: the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. The DAR National Headquarters building itself is a perfect example of the architecture used for these turn-of-the-century fairs. Architect Edward P. Casey’s 1905 design for Memorial Continental Hall employed the beaux-arts style popularized at the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

Walking the halls of Memorial Continental Hall, visitors were transported back in time to the magical “White City” at the 1893 fair. Did you know that the 1893 Women’s Building was designed by 21-year-old MIT graduate Sophia Hayden?  It contained booths operated by various women’s organizations… including the newly-formed Daughters of the American Revolution.

The DAR Museum collection showcases American craftsmanship, artistry, and innovation—all of which were exhibited at the World’s Fairs. At these events, the host country had the opportunity to showcase the talents of its people and the pride of its history. It was this same renewed interest in history during the late 19th century that gave rise to organizations like the DAR.

These events also exhibited innovative technologies, many of which had huge impacts on American life and culture—for example, the first public air-conditioned building was the Missouri State Building at the 1904 fair. At our recreated World’s Fair event, visitors learned about objects in the museum that were innovations at the time, such as the zoetrope: a toy using early animation technology, which led to the videos you watch today.

Why do we collaborate with outside organizations?

The DAR Museum World’s Fair offers a unique opportunity to re-create the excitement and conversations that thrived during turn-of-the-century World’s Fairs. One of the most popular features of the Columbian Exposition was the Midway Plaisance, a mile-long strip devoted to private and foreign exhibitions. Each year we transform our O’Byrne Gallery into a modern-day Plaisance by collaborating with local embassies and cultural centers.

This year we were proud to include the Asian Cultural Center, Cedarville Band of Piscataway, Embassy of Malaysia, Japan Information & Culture Center (Embassy of Japan), and Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center (Embassy of Oman) as program partners. Each program partner offered a unique and exciting booth that allowed visitors to explore aspects of their culture. You could taste white coffee in Malaysia, learn to use chopsticks in Japan, paint ceramics in Oman, practice calligraphy in China, and join a kentkatam performance with the Cedarville Band of Piscataway (all without leaving the DAR)! Check out the photographs to see some of our program partner highlights or watch this video created by our partners at HuaPlus TV.

This year we were also joined by the International Expositions Unit of the U.S. State Department, the Historian General’s Office of the DAR, and the DAR Library. We are thrilled to work with new program partners each year.  If you know a DC-based cultural center or embassy that may be interested in participating in our 2019 World’s Fair, please encourage them to email us at museum@dar.org. In fact, the date is already set for our third annual fair: Saturday, August 3, 2019. We hope to see you there!

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