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.
Back in San Francisco, people are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition with books, exhibitions, performances, and even the redecoration of the city's iconic Ferry Building to once again display "1915" in lights. People are dressing up in Edwardian clothing, enjoying photos and artifacts from 1915, and pondering what it must have been like for San Franciscans entering the site for the first time just years after the city’s destruction by earthquake and fire in 1906. You’ll forgive people if they wish they could go back to 1915 and experience it themselves… to fully appreciate the 1915 artifacts they see. Sadly, time travel doesn’t work that way.
Fortunately, time travel does work the other way.
We have the opportunity in 2015 to preserve not only the artifacts of Expo 2015 for future generations, but also the ways in which those items are signifiant to us. It’s a unique opportunity to tell the future who we are in 2015, how we lived, and what we valued. To that end, I’ve created a project to archive items and stories from Expo 2015. We’re asking a wide variety of people involved with Expo 2015 to share with us various ephemeral items and what they say about the event and ourselves. Furthermore, we can create a dialogue right now in 2015 through social media.
The Expo 2015+100 Archive will be a collection of items with associated narratives that will be stored for posterity at the Donald G. Larson Collection on International Expositions and Fairs at the California State University in Fresno, California. There, students, scholars, and enthusiasts can explore the items and the stories behind them. Naturally, they’ll be available for future anniversaries (such as in 2040 and 2065) as people reminisce about 2015, but our main focus is on 2115 and the generations beyond our own. We might not be able to talk to 1915, but we can talk to 2115.
To collect a wide variety of items, we’re trying to cast a large net. We’d like items from workers, volunteers, and guests. The donations don’t need to be of any great monetary value. In fact, the most historically valuable items to are often the ones that are meant to be temporary. For example, a one-time use badge for an event might be thrown away, but pared with a few sentences relating the experience says a lot about Expo 2015 and the people alive right now to experience it. Imagine what you’d ask someone in 1915 about a similar item and answer the question yourself for the citizens of 2115.
More information about the project and how to participate is outlined at Expo2015plus100.org and we’re asking people to share their items via social media using the hashtag #Expo2015plus100. Perhaps your item may end up in an exhibit at Expo 2115!
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.