Inaugural Institute for the Study of International Expositions Symposium Looks to the Past to See the Future

Feb. 25, 2022
Institute for the Study of International Expositions Inaugural Symposium: International Expositions: Looking to the Past, Seeing the Future
March 24-25, 2022
Expo 2010 at night

Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China. Photo by Lisa Schrenk.

On March 24 and 25, 2022, the Institute for the Study of International Expositions (ISIE) will host its first annual symposium: International Expositions: Looking to the Past, Seeing the Future. Registration for the online event is now open.

The symposium—which is jointly sponsored by the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA) and Office of Research, Innovation and Impact as well as the Centre for Transformative Media Technologies at Swinburne University, Australia—will bring scholars and enthusiasts together to generate new ideas about the history and legacy of international expositions.

“This symposium is the first major event for a new global, interdisciplinary organization for the study of international expositions,” says Lisa Schrenk, associate professor of architectural history and theory at CAPLA and a lead conference organizer. “By serving as vertical slices in the timeline of human history since 1851, world’s fairs provide important insights into the interconnectivity between aspects of modern human development, including the social, political, technical and artistic. They also help shape the future by presenting platforms for innovative visions of tomorrow.”

Through the conference, ISIE seeks to emphasize new and developing strategies for research, curation and preservation with the goal of facilitating both scholarly and popular understandings of the significance of these global events.

“Our aim is to ensure that participants leave the symposium with new insights into the study of expositions and a stronger connection to the global community of scholars involved in explorations of world’s fairs,” says Schrenk.

The symposium features keynotes by Robert Rydell, a leading scholar on international expositions, and Mark Ritchie, president and CEO of the Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee. Ritchie will share the fascinating political story behind the U.S. rejoining the Bureau of International Expositions and efforts to bring a world’s fair to the U.S. in 2027 (which included projects by CAPLA students). Other keynotes are Sudesh Mantillake, who will present on Sri Lankan performers in colonial expositions, Sarah Moore, UArizona professor of art who will discuss the 1901 World’s Fair’s Temple of Timber through the lenses of colonialism and ecocriticism, and Van Troi Tran, who will present on the material life of souvenirs and collectibles from the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Paper sessions will discuss expositions in relation to geopolitical spaces, empire, environment and material culture, and also consider re-evaluations of the “exposition city.” The symposium will also feature an ISIE roundtable and thematic and social breakout rooms.

Learn more and register at


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