Peripheries in the mirror

More about this object

Hall of Industries - Stand of the Pasteur Institute

World exhibitions have long been torn between displaying 'tradition' and 'modernization'. The way nations exhibited themselves also had consequences for how they appeared in relation to the rest of the world.

Aleko Konstantinov, a Bulgarian traveler and writer, expressed shock at the way his country was portrayed at the Chicago Columbian Exhibition of 1897. Although the American publishers of the exhibit catalog were impressed by a five hundred square foot (45.5 square meter) hand-made carpet, but what attracted Konstantinov’s attention was a map of Bulgaria that showed "curious American women [...] where the rose oil came from." He also admitted sadly that Bulgaria exhibited the "essence of cognac from Bordeaux, bottles from Prague, and labels from Vienna" instead of its own products.

By contrast,at the 1922 Centennial Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Portugal showed many different sides. While the exhibition was officially a celebration of 100 years of Brazilian independence, the conservative capital of the nation was pleased to display its European roots, and gave pride of place to its former colonial rulers. This included a special pavillion to 'Portuguese honour'.

Indeed, many aspects of the Portuguese nation were on display from traditional costumes to products such as wines and olive oil. The hall of industry also showed the modernist stand of the industrial laborarory, the Instituto Pasteur of Lisbon.

How to cite this page


Slawomir Lotysz, 'Peripheries in the mirror', Inventing Europe,


  1. Neuburger, Mary. "To Chicago and Back: Aleko Konstantinov, Rose Oil, and the Smell of Modernity." Slavic Review 65, no. 3 (Autumn, 2006): 427-445.

About this tour


Fair enough? Europe on display at the World's Fairs

The World Exhibitions, which began in 1851, originally served as a kind of stage upon which European nations could display their progress and achievements. Large countries in particular used the fairs to compete with each other. In so doing, they also depicted not so much the actual condition of science, technology, and art in Europe, but the Western European outlook on the rest of the world.

Warning: urldecode() expects parameter 1 to be string, array given in /home/invene/domains/ on line 587

What's like this?

Discover the Chicago World Fair

Back to top