Expo Blog

The Expo Blog is a space for posts on the history, themes, legacies and experience of Expos. It includes articles from the BIE and external contributors.


Urso Chappell is a San Francisco-based designer, writer, and consultant. Born on the former site of the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, he has attended nine expos thus far. In 1998, he founded ExpoMuseum.com. As a designer, he was the winner of Expo 2005's Linimo Design Contest in 2004. He has reported on various expos and consults for future expos and expo bids.

History Still Happens: A Case Study (with Pizza and Pride)

History Still Happens: A Case Study (with Pizza and Pride)

Oftentimes, when I talk to people about world's fair history, it's seen as something far in the past. However, history still happens and we're a part of it. Creating the Expo 2015+100 Archive, I've accumulated items and stories about this year's world's fair to share with the future, specifically 2115. What can be most fascinating, however, is that we don't always know what will be important to future historians.

When I was 15 and attended the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, the organizers had publicized the introduction of milk that needed no refrigeration. It was perceived, at the time, as the "big invention" that people would remember from the expo. Meanwhile, the United States Pavilion was using the first touch screen monitors to help tell their story about energy. Until then, only researchers had access to this technology. Today, nearly everyone on the Expo 2015 site has that technology in their pocket in the form of a smart phone. In 1982, though, touch screen technology was considered just an interesting novelty.

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Expo 2015+100

Expo 2015+100

Expo 2015 starts on May 1st, but it's already time to preserve the present for the future.

Normally, I live in San Francsico, but since September, I've been in Milan witnessing firsthand as the city as prepares to host a world's fair. As usual before an expo, people aren’t quite sure what to expect and it’s sometimes a challenge to help the public visualize what the experience will be like as the pavilions are still taking shape. Even to Expo organizers, there are hidden gems in the individual pavilions that won’t become apparent until opening day.

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The World's Fair Marketing Challenge

The World's Fair Marketing Challenge

Clearly, I haven't been keeping up with television technology lately.

It's great to see that Expo 2020 will not just be broadcast outside the local region, but be the highlight of a broadcasting advancement. Japan's HDK has announced they will broadcast Expo 2020 in 8K High Definition TV. (https://www.zawya.com/story/Japan_seeks_to_broadcast_Expo_2020_in_8K-GN_29012015_300112/)

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Expo 2015's Organizers Reveal a Hint of Things to Come

In 1999, 2004, 2009, and now 2014, I've had the opportunity to experience an Expo city within a year of its debut on the world stage. In all four cases (Hannover's Expo 2000, Aichi's Expo 2005, Shanghai's Expo 2010, and Milan's Expo 2015), you get the feeling that the city doesn't quite know what to expect just yet. In all four cases, much of what's going to happen in the next year is still a mystery. What is this big event that has been in the planning on construction stage for years?

One of the challenges for Expo organizers is communicating to the public what to expect. The organizers of Expo 2015 have taken the step of creating the Expo Gate, a preview center that's open to the public. The temporary landmark, created by Scandurra Studio, is situated just outside Sforzesco Castle, which was part of the site of the 1906 Universal Exposition. It will also serve as a ticket center, conveniently located in the center of town.

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Putting Myself in the Path

As I type this, I’m in a metal tube hurdling across Baffin Bay (between Canada and Greenland) on my way from San Francisco to Milan.

After having been to nine world’s fairs (1982 Knoxville, 1984 New Orleans, 1986 Vancouver, 1998 Lisbon, 2000 Hannover, 2005 Aichi, 2008 Zaragoza, 2010 Shanghai, and 2012 Yeosu), and reported on them in newspapers, magazines, and on television, I decided that the time was right for me to actually live in a city as it prepares to host an international expositions. Like a tornado hunter, I’m putting myself in the path this time.

As it happens, Milan’s legacy of design and education coincides well with my own career needs. For years, I’ve worked in graphic design in marketing departments, so I’ll be pursuing a graduate degree in Visual Brand Design in the coming ten months.

This year, as folks in New York celebrate the 50th and 75th anniversaries of their iconic world’s fairs and San Francisco prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, I’m hoping to bring attention to the medium as it exists today. World’s fairs are not dead.

Recently, America’s National Public Radio (NPR) featured a segment asking people the question “What would a world’s fair be like today?” Typically in reports like this, there’s at least a passing reference to the fact that world’s fairs still exist. They’re usually dismissed as not being as big or important as they used to be. Sadly, I think this is a symptom of the America-centric attitude we have: If they don’t happen here, they must not be important. By this logic, there hasn't been a Summer Olympics or a World Cup since the 1990's.

One of my hopes, while here, is to find a way to bring a world’s fair back to North America while bringing the excitement of Expo 2015 to Americans through the web.

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Opinions given by external contributors to the Expo Blog do not necessarily reflect the views and position of the BIE