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National Building Museum (Washington, DC 20001-2637)
Cathy Frankel (Project Director: January 2009 to November 2012)
Designing Tomorrow: America's World's Fairs of the 1930s

Implementation of a traveling exhibition exploring how the modern architectural and industrial design displayed at the 1930s world's fairs articulated a unique American modernism and laid the groundwork for post-World War II consumerism.

Designing Tomorrow: America's World's Fairs of the 1930s investigates the history of modern design at six expositions across the United States between 1933 and 1939. The fairs propelled a modernist vision into the popular imagination and laid the groundwork for what would emerge as a fully-realized post-war consumer culture. In the midst of the Great Depression, they articulated a unique American modernism that amounted to a revolution in transportation, urban design, domestic life, and communication. Companies like General Electric, Ford, and DuPont publicized their most innovative products. A new generation of architects and designers promoted visions of superhighways and suburban communities and experimented with buildings framed in steel, beautified with glass block, and economically constructed of drywall, Masonite, and plywood. The 6,000 sq. ft. exhibition, the first to treat the six Depression-era fairs, features nearly 200 artifacts, archival footage, and interactive stations.

Project fields:
Interdisciplinary Studies, General

America's Historical and Cultural Organizations: Implementation Grants

Public Programs

$380,000 (approved)
$380,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2009 – 8/31/2012