September 26, 2018
Writer: Bryanna Willis

The David O. Mckay Library Special Collections Department at BYU-Idaho is partnering with Professor Andrea Radke-Moss to display the exhibit “See the Fair; Exploring the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition 125 Years Later.”

The exhibit shows Professor Radke-Moss’s personal collection of rare books, manuscripts, art prints and other memorabilia about the World’s Fair. Co-curator and Library Archivist Adam Luke also contributed with a few books and pamphlets found regularly in the Special Collection section.

Where do the items come from?

Radke-Moss says she started collecting the items as part of her research for a book she is writing. The book is about western women participating in the Chicago World’s Fair. Because of that work, most of her collection is made up of books and pamphlets.

“Each state published a book or pamphlet… about their state… and then they would sell those books at the fair to promote their state to outsiders who might want to learn about moving there or the economic development,” Radke-Moss said.

Building a large personal collection of any sort can be an adventure. Radke-Moss says she found most of her items on eBay.

“Sometimes I have been in antique stores or antique book dealers, that’s how I found my Utah book, an antique dealer had a copy of it,” she said. “Another book I found at D.I. (Deseret Industries) in the glass cabinet. I happened to be there, and it was also autographed by one of the women who I am researching.”

And that was in the Rexburg D.I.

Radke-Moss says many people who know her have also given her items from the fair as gifts.

Why is the exhibit on display now?

Luke said the exhibit has several reasons for being on display now, one of them being that it is the 125th anniversary of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.

“The fair was such a big deal, it brought all these different parts of the country together,” Luke said. “And so it’s just a great thing to celebrate… we thought it would be fun to display that.”

The World’s Fair had been held in many places before Chicago. The first fair was held by Prince Albert in Great Britain in 1851 in Hyde Park. This fair might be well remembered because at this fair the first Ferris wheel made its debut. Radke-Moss points out this is mainly what people know about the fair. He hopes it will draw people go to the library to see more.

Any interactive displays?

Luke said they have several interactive exhibits on display. The have a puzzle of the fair that can be assembled and several stereographs people can view photos through.

“This is perfectly aligned with the fair because they were really popular at the time,” Luke said. “You would make these cards and the image is slightly offset so when you look at it through the stereograph then it looks 3D.”

Holding the exhibit in Special Collections will also serve to bring more people into the smaller room inside the library. Luke says they have many books and collections that are important and valuable but are still accessible for use. They also specialize in collecting local and campus history which includes journals and photographs.

The event is free to everyone including the general public and runs through the end of the semester.