Universal Expositions history

“Exhibit the means at man’s disposal for meeting the needs of civilization” and “show prospects for the future”

By Lucien Baylac [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Lucien Baylac [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The first Universal Exposition was held in 1851 in London during the Victorian era on the theme of industry. Greatly promoted and supported by the government and the monarchy, the Universal Exposition allowed Great Britain to illustrate itself as a great industrial power, at the cutting edge of technology. Over the next years, universal expositions made it possible for participating nations to showcase their industrial and technological expertise. For instance, the Eiffel tower was built as a result of the 1889 Universal Exposition.

In 1928, an official Universal Exposition regulatory framework was defined in the Paris Convention, signed by 167 countries. The convention’s first article defines the Exposition’s principal purpose as “education of the public: it may exhibit the means at man’s disposal for meeting the needs of civilization, or demonstrate the progress achieved in one or more branches of human endeavor, or show prospects for the future”.

Since 1931, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), located in Paris, is in charge of the respect of the convention and assist the organizing countries. According to the BIE, Universal expositions:

  • “take place every 5 years and have duration of 6 months
  • Participants include countries, international organizations, NGOs, corporations and other institutions
  • The size of the site is unlimited and participants build their own pavilions”.

Since 1851, thirty-three Universal Expositions have been organized, in which 22 are historical expositions (held before the creation of the BIE), and 11 registered expositions. More information on the history of Universal Expositions: -on the official website of BIE: http://www.bie-paris.org/site/en/home/history-of-expos

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