The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, opened its doors to the public on April 30, 1904. By the time it concluded in December, millions of people had visited the fair. The nearly seven-month-long spectacle showcased a plethora of magnificent buildings, remarkable displays, scientific marvels, and exhibitions of cultures and products from foreign lands.
The Gateway to the East exhibition examines how various groups of people, including American state officials, fairgoers, Chinese diplomats, members of the Chinese communities in St. Louis, and contemporary scholars and community historians, understand the meaning and legacy of the fair. Personal stories from the 1904 World’s Fair bring to light a curated view of China designed specifically to appeal to an American audience who viewed China as the “old regime” with an exotic culture but outdated civilization. The exhibition also sheds light on the cultural diplomacy utilized by the Qing government and its American counterpart, as both were navigating through the forces of colonialism, imperialism, diplomacy, and globalization by the turn of the 20th century.
This exhibition was organized by Dr. Zhao Ma and Chinese Studies students with Curator of Local History Miranda Rectenwald.