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.
I was reminded of this yesterday, July 20th, when Expo 2015 hosted two events that are now a part of world's fair history.
Expo 2015's Decumanus is the main throughfare through the site. Nearly every country faces onto this one street that runs from one side of the expo site to the other. Down the center, sixty of Italy's pizza makers worked through the night to create the world's longest pizza. At 1595.45 meters (5234 feet), it is now recognized by Guinness World Records. It contained 1500 kilograms of tomatoes and required the use of five specially-designed ovens. The effort is part of a campaign by Italy to have pizza added to the UNESCO cultural heritage list.
There is a long and storied history connecting food with expos. The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition alone introduced the ice cream cone, cotton candy, and iced tea, for example.
Simultaneously, Expo 2015 became the first world's fair with an official LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Pride event. Kicking off Milano Pride 2015, the United States Pavilion hosted an all-day event, around the hashtag #Hungry4HumanRights, that involved Milan's LGBT community. Celebrated American chef Art Smith helped push for the event that brought thousands to celebrate on the pavilion's rooftop terrace. Simultaneously, varied other country's partcipated by flying rainbow flags in front of their pavilions and specifically inviting the LGBT community into their pavilions. It was a day of celebration that everyone was invited to. The U.S. Pavilion's digital water fountain on the Decumanus proclaimed "EXPO WELCOMES EVERYONE... MILANO PRIDE" all day long.
In some ways, the celebration recalls similar events and pavilions from world's fairs past that focused on women, African-Americans, and other minorities.
THE HISTORY OF NOW
Just months ago, when Expo 2015 was being planned and built, I remember talking with colleagues about what Expo 2015 will be remember for. What will be its legacy? It's too early to say, but I think historians will remember the pizza and the pride... as well as other aspects of Expo 2015 that we can't predict just yet.
P.S., Hello 2115!