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Celebration or manufacturing nostalgia : constructing histories of World Expo '88
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Donna BrienDonna Brien
World Expo '88, also widely known as 'Expo '88' and locally simply as 'Expo', was held in Brisbane from April to October 1988, as a key event of the national Bicentennial celebrations commemorating the 200 years of European settlement of Australia. Other major components of the Bicentennial year - such as the symbolic re-enactment of the voyage of the First Fleet that culminated in the Parade of Tall Ships sailing into Sydney Harbour on Australia Day - together with other significant national events such as the 1956 and 2000 Olympic Games, have generated historically focused interest, which has been manifested and disseminated in the usual way in articles, books and museum exhibitions. Brisbane's World Expo '88, however, appears to be one of the few Australian so-called 'signature' events that has also generated its own long-lived series of commemorative memorials and festivals. World Expo '88 marked Australia's first staging of an international exposition-type event in almost a century, and one of the few instances in the twentieth century of a world's fair being held in the Southern Hemisphere. The first world exposition (also known as universal or international expositions and world fairs), the spectacularly successful Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of Nations, was held in 1851, when 25 countries exhibited produce, manufactures and other fruits of progress in Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace in London's Hyde Park. Expositions have since been staged around the world, including in Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, South Korea, Japan and Haiti, with Australia hosting four expositions in the nineteenth century: the Sydney International Exhibition (1879-80), Melbourne International Exhibition (1880-81), Centennial International Exhibition (1888-89) (also held in Melbourne) and the Queensland International Exhibition (1897). Today, the history of world fairs occupies a special place in public memory globally, with a number of online collections of site and memorabilia imagery, event information and records of visitor memories. Within this memorialising context, however, the ongoing commemoration of Brisbane's World Expo '88 over more than two decades in public, on-site festivals is unusual and worthy of consideration.