KNOXVILLE, TN - The East Tennessee Historical Society will take a look back at the 1982 World’s Fair in an exhibition opening next week in downtown Knoxville. Employing banners, clothing, pins, photos, souvenirs, and other items, the exhibit “When the World Came to Knoxville: Twenty-five Years Later” seeks to capture the flavor and joy of the international event that drew 11 million visitors to Knoxville and left so many with fond memories.
“When the World Came to Knoxville: Twenty-five Years Later” opens Tuesday, May 29, 2007, in the main gallery of the East Tennessee History Center at 601 S. Gay Street (across from the Tennessee Theater) and will run through Sunday, September 9, 2007. This exhibit is open to the public, offered at no charge and is sponsored by the City of Knoxville. The exhibition has been organized and developed by the staff and volunteers of the East Tennessee Historical Society.
The East Tennessee Historical Society will also present a one-day exhibition at the Knoxville Convention and Exhibition Center during the city’s 25th anniversary celebration of the fair on July 4 at World’s Fair Park. The city’s celebration is in conjunction with the “Festival on the Fourth” and opens at 2:00 p.m. The restored Rubik’s Cube, a giant mechanized replica of the puzzle that was wildly popular at the time and became a fair icon, will also be on display at World’s Fair Park that day. For more information on the July 4 celebration, visit www.cityofknoxville.org.
“We’re going to start with an overview of the 1982 World’s Fair development and construction, displaying some of the early newspaper articles, advertisements, and photographs” Adam Alfrey said last week pointing amid empty display cases and other items in the gallery where he and Michele MacDonald were developing the exhibit. “Then the exhibition will progress to opening day, followed by these four cases which will showcase the souvenirs from the various pavilions and the World’s Fair itself,” he added moving along the space. Alfrey is the East Tennessee Historical Society’s curator of exhibitions while MacDonald is the society’s curator of collections.
Among the memorabilia will be articles like a dragon banner from the China Pavilion, a panel from the Australian Pavilion, posters, and a display of buttons and pins from the different countries, attractions, and corporate sponsors.
The exhibit will include a sidewalk inhabited by a handful of mannequins dressed in various World’s Fair uniforms; a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentary on the fair produced by WETP-TV from their 10th anniversary special and a documentary on the construction of the Rubik’s Cube by the Knoxville company, HySign, Inc.—these two videos will played on alternate days.
The exhibit concludes with a look at the legacy of the 1982 World’s Fair, allowing visitors the opportunity to record their memories of the event if they wish as they leave the gallery. Alfrey said the exhibit is designed for both the people who were there and for those who might not have even been around during the fair’s six-month run in 1982. “I was only five months old at the start of the World’s Fair,” Alfrey said, “and this is my way to participate in it, looking at it through everyone else’s memories.”
Previously, the East Tennessee Historical Society offered a popular exhibition commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fair. “Yes, the 20th anniversary exhibition was popular with the community,” said MacDonald. “It was neat because people just kind of got this goofy grin on their faces when they thought about it (the fair) because everyone had such a good time.”
The East Tennessee Historical Society, whose mission is to preserve, interpret and promote the region’s history, is located at 601 S. Gay Street in downtown Knoxville. Directions to ETHS are available at www.east-tennessee-history.org. For additional information, call 865-215-8824.