New Orleans ’84; the Louisiana World Exposition. Coming just two years after Knoxville, work on the U.S. Pavilion for New Orleans Expo had already begun before Knoxville’s run had ended. In my role as Exhibits Director for the US pavilion, I was responsible for coordinating the design, fabrication and installation of the exhibits and production of a 3-D film.
By negotiation with the expo organising committee, the Expo would provide the 9,290m2 building that housed the US pavilion, valued at approximately $10 million, and the U.S. Department of Commerce would provide the exhibits and operations with a matching budget. The building was designed, built and paid for by the fair corporation and owner, Louisiana World Exposition, Inc.
The U.S. Pavilion was located at the South End of the riverfront site. It housed two 750-seat, 3-D theaters both showing a 20-minute film by Academy Award-winning producer Charles Guggenheim entitled “Water, the Source of Life.” (The theme of the expo was “The World of Rivers – Fresh Water as a Source of Life") The exhibits were fabricated in Alexandria, Virginia and transported to New Orleans. Coordinating building construction with exhibit design and fabrication was a constant challenge.
The pavilion garnered a 5-star rating by local reviewers. One of its attractions was the Space Shuttle Enterprise, (NASA’s prototype orbiter, which now has a permanent home at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City) which was displayed in front of the pavilion. It had made a New Orleans flyover attached to a Boeing 747 and was then transported by barge up the Mississippi and off-loaded to the expo site. During the expo it was used for Bob Hope’s Super Birthday Special with Bob Hope and Twiggy boarding the Shuttle as they sang, “Fly Me to the Moon” (see video below). Notable guests to the pavilion included Vice President Bush, former President Jimmy Carter, Secretary of State Shultz and Secretary of Commerce Baldridge.
Twiggy and Bob Hope Flight Medley at Expo 1984 New Orleans
The pavilion had then-unique virtual aquariums that were actually video touchscreens where visitors could touch the moving fish on the screen to discover interesting facts about them. By the end of the expo, 2.6 million people had visited the U.S. Pavilion, which was 35% of the entire attendance to the expo.
This text initially appeared as part of “Tales from the Expo,” an InPark Magazine online book written by James Ogul and edited by Judith Rubin.
James Ogul is a specialist in World Expos who worked at the U.S. State Department for over 30 years. Ogul has worked on U.S. pavilions at ten Expos, starting at Expo 1982 in Knoxville.