World's Fair Celebration


by staff, 03/26/2014

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The world's fairs held since the late 19th century have been showcases of where we are as a society and what we dream of for the future. Held in various locations throughout the globe, the fairs gathered nations together to share their visions and values. For the expositions held in 1939 and 1964, Queens was selected as the site for the events: the borough's diversity made it the perfect location for such a diverse gathering. The 1939 fair (themed "Building the World of Tomorrow") and 1964 event ("Peace Through Understanding") left their marks on New York City thanks to projects built for the occasions that significantly changed the City's landscape: Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the New York Hall of Science and Queens Museum (both part of the iconic New York Pavilion) and, of course, the Unisphere. Now that 50 years have passed since 1964's expo, NYC is hosting a celebration of that fair's (and its predecessor's) lasting legacy. Rather than look toward tomorrow, these events commemorate New York City’s history and examine how the fairs still resonate today.

Highlights include an exhibition at the Queens Museum relating to Andy Warhol’s murals for the exterior of the New York State Pavilion, which generated controversy and were painted over prior to the fair’s start; multiple events and exhibits at the Queens Botanical Garden, which was initially built as a showpiece garden for the 1939 fair; 64 in 64, a collection of photographs documenting the construction of the New York State Pavilion; and lectures, tours and programming throughout Queens. The projects reveal the fairs' impact and why people came to Queens then—and why the borough remains such a thriving destination now. For more information about the scheduled celebrations, events described below and new additions, visit

April 1–April 30
Photo exhibition at Queens Center Mall
This display focuses on Queens' diversity and how the two fairs that the borough hosted fulfilled a mission to showcase ideas from around the globe. The show includes photos and materials used to promote world’s fair programming, such as postcards and other ephemera.

April 5–April 6
Taiwan: A World of Orchids and Opening Weekend at Queens Botanical Garden
The garden kicks off spring with a special celebration of Taiwanese orchids. Since Taiwan's climate is particularly conducive to the delicate flowers, the country has become proficient in cultivating the plant. Taiwan is being highlighted because it was the first to break ground on its pavilion for the 1964 World's Fair. Programming on Saturday includes a display of the orchids (9am–3pm), children’s botanical crafts (10am–5pm), a traditional tea ceremony (1:45pm) and music (2:30pm). Sunday’s programming includes an all-day plant sale—with orchids among the offerings—children’s activities (2–5pm) and appearances by Flora, the garden’s mascot.

April 7–June 30
The 1939 & 1964 New York World's Fair at Greater Astoria Historical Society
At the heart of this exhibition are 30 rare photographs of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs. Lectures, tours and other public programming complement the display.

April 13
Visions of Tomorrow: Art and Commerce at the 1939 World’s Fair at The Noguchi Museum
While Isamu Noguchi's work is well known, his connection to the New York World's Fair is not. He created a fountain for the Ford Motor Company during the 1939 fair and worked on a sculpture for a proposed "Model Community Center," which ultimately was not built. This lecture, by Helen Harrison, director of the Pollack-Krasner House and Study Center and editor of Dawn of a New Day: The New York World's Fair, 1939/40, explores the connections between artists' participation in the fairs and the planners' "Building the World of Tomorrow" agenda.

April 13–November 2
64 in 64 at Queens Museum 
Visit the museum to inspect 64 photographs that document the 1964 fair, specifically the construction of the New York State Pavilion. The pavilion comprised the Theaterama (now Queens Theatre), the Tent of Tomorrow—a structure built by renowned architect Philip Johnson—and three observation towers.

April 13–November 2
Iconic Symbols of the 1964 World's Fair Reimagined—in LEGOs at Queens Theatre
What would the 1964 World's Fair look like if it had been made with LEGOs? This exhibition, in conjunction with the Port Authority, includes seven of the fair's structures constructed by the group Brick by Brick – World's Fair Brick Committee. On May 18 the theater will host special workshops in which families can build their own LEGO models—and each participant will receive a mini-model of the New York State Pavilion.

April 13–July 31
Bringing the World to the Fair: The Port Authority's Role—Trade, Travel and Tourism in Queens, the Region and the World at Queens Theatre
This exhibition, sponsored by The Port Authority of NY & NJ, will include a pop-up, display and video.

April 27–September 7
Andy Warhol's 13 Most Wanted Men and the 1964 World's Fair at Queens Museum
Andy Warhol was an up-and-coming artist in 1964. Invited to contribute a piece to the world's fair that year, he sparked controversy by plastering prints he made of most-wanted mugshots on the exterior of the fair's New York State Pavilion. The mural was painted over at the direction of fair officials before the event opened to the public, leaving a large silver square as the singular evidence of the artist's only public art commission. Warhol used the original screens to produce the "20 Most Wanted Men" painting series that forms the core of this exhibit—which marks the 50th anniversary of the fair and celebrates a Warhol work that rubbed the Empire State establishment the wrong way.

April 22
"When the World Came to Queens" at Queens Theatre
Marking the anniversary of the opening of the 1964 World's Fair, this presentation features rare photographs and a lecture from author and historian Bill Cotter, who will sign books after the talk.

April 29
Queens Taste 2014 at Sheraton LaGuardia Hotel
This annual favorite features a world's fair memorabilia table, photos and an appearance by the women who sold Belgian waffles in 1964. Individual tickets are $100.

April 30–August 31
The World Comes to Queens: Films from the 1939 and 1964 World Fairs at Museum of the Moving Image
The Museum of the Moving Image has a large archive of films, some of them related to the two fairs. The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair and To New Horizons were made during the 1939 event; Sinclair at the World's Fair, World's Fair Report with Lowell Thomas, To The Fair and Unisphere: The Biggest World on Earth are all associated with 1964’s fair. The museum will screen these continuously throughout the summer.

May 5–November 12
Moving the World to the 1964 World's Fair at AirTrain JFK Jamaica and Howard Beach Stations
This photo exhibition, on display at two AirTrain stations, examines the role of public transportation in the logistics of the fair.

May 6–September 28
Art in the Garden: Harvesting our History—The Story of Queens Botanical Garden at Queens Botanical Garden
The history of the Queens Botanical Garden is integrally connected with that of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs. QBG had its inception as a display garden for the 1939 celebration, and it was preserved and expanded in subsequent years. In 1964, the garden and its plantings were relocated to their current site to make way for the exhibitions of that year. This show explores the influence of the fairs on the garden's creation and history.

May 14–November 15
Bundith Phunsombatlert's Wayfinding: 100 NYC Public Sculptures at Queens Museum
This installation is made up of 100 directional signs, each of which features a drawing of a New York City public sculpture and includes the distance between the sign and the actual sculpture, indicated with GPS coordinates. On June 8, historian John Kriskiewicz will lead a tour through Flushing Meadows Corona Park that explores the public sculptures within the park's confines.

May 17
105th Annual Magic Show at Queens Theatre
This performance by the Society of American Magicians highlights the role of magic in the world's fairs. In addition to the stage show, the evening includes interactive magic acts in the lobby. The program costs $45.

May 17–18
Art Installations at Queens Museum
This weekend features a range of programming related to the Open Engagement Conference, an art-themed gathering held this year at Queens Museum. The Workers Pavilion (by the Workers Art Coalition) is a temporary installation made from modular light boxes that showcases original art, photography and writing by union workers, immigrant workers and participating labor groups. Migrant Camera is a walk-in camera that faces the Unisphere, a sculpture that is a legacy of the fairs. The piece invites the public to consider ideas of mobility and migration. FLUSH/MEAD/COR/PAR: UNDO-MISDO-OVERDO-REDO is a temporary art installation that examines the future of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The piece itself includes "imagination starters" designed to inspire visitors to brainstorm new ideas for the park. 

May 18
World's Fair Anniversary Festival at Flushing Meadows Corona Park
This family-friendly festival includes games, inflatable rides, crafts and activities for kids, in addition to tours of the park's sculptures and structures. A concert will cap off the day's events.

May 24–26
World's Fair Train Show at Queens Botanical Garden
This display of working G-scale model trains is presented by the Long Island Garden Railway Society (G scale describes a particular size of miniature railways). The diorama created here includes a diminutive Unisphere along with other NYC World's Fair icons. For an additional fee, families can ride a life-size motorized train through parts of the garden's grounds.

May 25–August 31
The Designing Eye: Exposition Posters from 1893–2000 at Queens Museum 
This exhibition shows more than 30 posters from fairs dating back to the World's Columbian Exposition, which took place in 1893 in Chicago. The events have spanned several continents: the most recent one covered here is Expo 2000, in Hanover, Germany. 

June 15–October 16
Science and the Fairs at New York Hall of Science
Science was a key theme at both the 1939 and 1964 fairs. This collaboration between the Queens Historical Society and the Port Authority highlights the role and importance of science during the fairs—and today.

June 22, 2014–May 31, 2015
Remembering Yesterday: Queens and Its NY World’s Fairs at Queens Historical Society
Attempting to explore the 1939 and 1964 fairs from the point of view of the visitor, the Queens Historical Society has put together this array of artifacts and photographs from personal collections.

June 30–September 14
Ambassador Satchmo at the World's Fair at Queens Museum 
June 30, 1964, was declared by fair organizations to be "Louis Armstrong Day" in honor of the jazz elder, who lived in Corona at the time. Come see previously unpublished images of Satchmo at the fair that day—taken by close friend and photographer Jack Bradley.

July 9
The Wizard of Oz at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, 111th Street Lawn
See a free outdoor movie screening that celebrates the 1939 World's Fair, in this case the classic flick The Wizard of Oz, which was released that same year.

July 13
The Bridge and the Fair at Queens Public Library
This display shows off photographs of the construction of the Whitestone Bridge, Whitestone Expressway and Flushing Bridge.

July 18–July 27
The World's Fair Plays at Queens Theatre
This festival of 10 original 10-minute plays, all of them inspired by the 1939 and 1964 fairs, will be performed in a series of eight performances on the weekends of July 18–20 and July 25–27.

July 19
World's Fair Brew Fest at Queens Botanical Garden
Attend an afternoon of beer and food from around the world that also features music and craft vendors. Tickets for the tastings (at noon and 4pm) are required. Those attending must be 21 and older.

August 2–November 1
Bringing the World to the Fair: The Port Authority's Role—Trade, Travel and Tourism in Queens, the Region and the World at Queens Botanical Garden
This multimedia exhibition, examining how the Port Authority is involved with economic and cultural initiatives, is free with admission to the garden.

August 20
Mary Poppins at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, 111th Street Lawn 
In honor of the 1964 World's Fair, Movies in the Park presents a free outdoor showing of Mary Poppins, which debuted the year of the fair.

September 20–21
World Maker Faire at New York Hall of Science
The annual World Maker Faire features more than 600 artists, inventors and thinkers celebrating DIY creativity; an appreciative audience shows up in droves. This will be its fifth year in NYC. 

September 28
World’s Fair Lecture at Queens Botanical Garden
Margaret Anne Tockarshewsky, executive director of the New Haven Museum, will give a talk about the history of the world's fair. The lecture is free with garden admission.

October 5–January 4, 2015
That Kodak Moment: Picturing the Fairs in 1939–40 and 1964–65 at Queens Museum
This exhibition is drawn from a recent donation of more than 1500 images of the 1964 World's Fair. It includes some pieces that have never before been in a museum setting, ranging from professional documentation to items collected from attendees' scrapbooks.

October 1–October 31
Connected Worlds at New York Hall of Science
As part of the reopening of the Hall of Science's Great Hall, the museum debuts a new permanent exhibition, Connected Worlds, which explores conservation.

The Panorama of the City of New York at Queens Museum
One highlight of Queens Museum's collection is this small-scale model of New York City conceived by Robert Moses for the 1964 World's Fair. It took more than three years and 100 people to build this, and it has been modified over time as the City's built landscape changes. The impressively detailed 9,335-square-foot scale model now features every building constructed before 1992 as well as a few newer structures, such as Citi Field—home of the New York Mets—and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

World's Fair Visible Storage at Queens Museum
The Queens Museum is closely associated with the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs, and the museum's collection includes more than 10,000 objects from the two events. One key element of the museum's 2013 expansion was the permanent World's Fair Visible Storage and Gallery, which displays nearly 1,000 three-dimensional pieces arranged by category and fair date, allowing visitors to explore and study the collection. Most items were formerly off-limits to the public and are on display for the first time in the museum's history.

Mathematica at New York Hall of Science
Produced by Charles and Ray Eames, Mathematica was the first interactive exhibition dedicated to math. It was designed for the California Museum of Science and Industry, and a reproduction of it was displayed at the 1964 World's Fair. The Hall of Science now owns this original.

World's Fair Lectures and Programs at Greater Astoria Historical Society
Throughout 2014, the Greater Astoria Historical Society presents programming related to the anniversaries of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs. Among the events: a screening of Peace Through Understanding, a documentary about the 1964 fair (March 29); a lecture about the 1964 fair (April 7); and the NY World’s Fair Tour (April 12), in partnership with Forgotten New York.

related venues/(9)

  1. 1
    Queens Museum
    New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
    Queens – Flushing
    NY 11368
  2. 2
    Queens Botanical Garden
    43-50 Main St.
    Queens – Flushing
    NY 11355
  3. 3
    Flushing Meadows Corona Park
    111th St to Van Wyck Expy
    Queens – multiple locations
    NY 11375
  1. 4
    New York Hall of Science
    47-01 111th St.
    Queens – Corona
    NY 11368
  2. 5
    Greater Astoria Historical Society
    35-20 Broadway
    Queens – Long Island City
  3. 6
    The Noguchi Museum
    9 - 01 33rd Rd. @ Vernon Blvd.
    Queens – Long Island City
    NY 11106
  1. 7
    Queens Theatre
    Flushing Meadows Corona Park
    Queens – Flushing
    NY 11368
  2. 8
    Queens Center Mall
    90-15 Queens Blvd.
    Queens – Elmhurst
    NY 11373
  3. 9
    Museum of the Moving Image
    35th Ave. at 37th St.
    Queens – Astoria
    NY 11106

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