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Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s

October 2, 2010 - September 5, 2011

Media Resources

Designing Tomorrow: Press Kit

Also of Interest

Related Media

  Modernism for the Masses
June 7, 2011

  21st-Century World's Fairs - Part 5: Panel Discussion
October 25, 2010

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Designing Tomorrow Flickr Group 

U.S. Government Building, Century of Progress Exposition, Chicago 1933-34
Photograph by Kauffman & Fabry, Co.; Collection of Jim Sweeny.

Between 1933 and 1940 tens of millions of Americans visited world's fairs in cities across the nation. Designing Tomorrow explores the modernist spectacles of architecture and design they witnessed -- visions of a brighter future during the worst economic crisis the United States had known. The fairs popularized modern design for the American public and promoted the idea of science and consumerism as salvation from the Great Depression. 

Participating architects, eager for new projects at a time when few new buildings were being financed, populated the fairgrounds with an eclectic modern architecture. Pavilions housed innovative and dynamic exhibitions that paid tribute to factory production, technology, and speed.  Exhibits forecasted the houses and cities of tomorrow and presented streamlined trains, modern furnishings, television, and talking robots. 

Designing Tomorrow Futurama
General Motors Building, New York World’s Fair, 1940
Courtesy Albert Kahn Family of Companies.

A first-of-its-kind exhibition, Designing Tomorrow features nearly 200 never-before-assembled artifacts including building models, architectural remnants, drawings, paintings, prints, furniture, an original RCA TRK-12 television, Elektro the Moto-Man robot, and period film footage. The artifacts are drawn from the featured expositions: Chicago, IL—A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933–34); San Diego, CA—California Pacific International Exposition (1935-36); Dallas, TX—Texas Centennial Exposition (1936); Cleveland, OH—Great Lakes Exposition (1936-37); San Francisco, CA—Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-40); and New York, NY—New York World's Fair (1939-40).

Visit the Designing Tomorrow curators' blog.


Take a docent led tour of the exhibition Designing Tomorrow: America's World's Fairs of the 1930s.


This exhibition was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom.

  National Endowment for the Humanities



Additional funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts


 National Endowment for the Arts



Assa Abloy_logo  Beyer Blinder Belle logo  Cassidy Turley  Davis
 Perkins+Will logo  Skidmore Owings & Merrill logo  Studios Architecture logo  



Grunley Construction Co., Inc.
Holland & Knight/Whayne Quin
Richard, Priscilla and William Hunt
U.S. Conference of Mayors

Official Media Partner:

McGraw-Hill Construction

For more information about Designing Tomorrow sponsorship opportunities, download the exhibition prospectus or contact Michael Dunagan, Director of Institutional Giving, at 202.272.2448,ext. 3551 or mdunaga@nbm.org  



Exhibition Team:

Laura Burd Schiavo and Deborah Sorensen, Curators
Stephanie Hess, Curatorial Assistant
Robert W. Rydell, Consulting Curator
Pat Rogan, Assemble, Exhibition Design
Lisa Bolejack, Graphic Design
Melissa Kennedy, Graphic Design
Brandon Gnetz, Graphic Design
Nancy Van Meter, Brochure Design
John Sorensen, Media Production
Mary Purcell, Registrar
William H. C. Griffith, Exhibition Coordinator
Christopher Maclay, Master Carpenter
Berry & Homer, Graphics Fabricator

Advisory Panel:

Matthew Bokovoy, Christina Cogdell, Neil Harris, Lisa Schrenk, Kristina Wilson, and Richard Guy Wilson

Design and Installation Team:

Kristin Adolfson, Shelagh Cole, Rosemary DeRosa, Evan Howell, Allan Sprecher, Patrick Burke, Rowan Corbett, David Hayward, James Matthews, Rick McSorley, Anirut Panchatha, Mark Papagno, and Brad Rudich.