Museums Show Off Columbian Exposition Artifacts for Anniversary

By Sam Cholke on September 25, 2013 7:56am 

 A spitoon from the Columbian Exposition is just one of the rarely seen artifacts on display at local museums for the 120th anniversary of the fair.
A spitoon from the Columbian Exposition is just one of the rarely seen artifacts on display at local museums for the 120th anniversary of the fair.
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University of Chicago LIbrary

HYDE PARK — The World’s Columbian Exposition still has a hold on Hyde Park 120 years after opening, and it's the subject of several exhibits looking back at the fair.

The University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library has a showcase of souvenirs from the fair on exhibit through Oct. 5.

Much of the collection comes from former philosophy professor Ian Mueller’s personal collection from the 1893 and 1933 Chicago world's fairs, which was donated to the university after his death.

“It was a lot of fun when this collection came in,” said Eileen A. Ielmini, one of the exhibition’s curators. “Professor Mueller collected from the sheer joy of it.”

The commemorative plates and embroidered pillows from Mueller’s collection are punctuated by the very personal notes of witnessing the 1893 fair firsthand by University of Chicago anthropology professor Frederick Starr.

The Chicago History Museum has been running sold-out tours of the fair sites in Jackson Park in connection with the “Siam: The Queen and the White City.”

The exhibit details Queen Savang Vadhana's efforts to introduce Thailand, then the exotic and remote kingdom of Siam, to the Western world.

“We are honored and elated to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Columbian Exposition with such a rich, culturally important story,” said Gary T. Johnson, president of the Chicago History Museum. “The 1893 fair was important to Chicago, but we often forget how much of an impact it made in bringing cultures together and making the world a smaller place.”

The exhibit opened this week with a visit from Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand and runs through March 2.

The Field Museum will display its own collection of artifacts from the Columbian Exposition starting Oct. 25. Through Sept. 7, 2014, the museum will show artifacts of the fair never before displayed.

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