Built Worlds and Systems of Knowledge: Architectures of the World Exhibitions in the 19th Century
Exposition universelle 1867, Vue panoramique, Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg.
6:00-8:00 pm


Built Worlds and Systems of Knowledge: Architectures of the World Exhibitions in the 19th Century

Kirsten Wagner

While museums continued to differentiate themselves in the 19th century and special collections took the place of the integrative, “Naturalia, Artificialia, Scientifica and Exotica” model of the curio cabinet, new formats emerged with world’s fairs that claimed to be able to depict the world in a limited space. If this world was composed of commercial artifacts, including their raw materials and manual or mechanical manufacturing processes, in accordance with the commercial and industrial exhibitions from which the world’s fairs emerged, then the exhibits increasingly expanded to include the arts as well as archaeological and ethnographic objects. The steadily growing number of exhibits required appropriate exhibition rooms, but also the arrangements that made the exhibits accessible, which were implemented in and from the exhibition rooms. A good example in this regard is the world’s fair in Paris, held in 1867 under the direction of the social reformer Frédéric Le Play. In their buildings, from the “Palais Omnibus” to the national pavilions, various encyclopedic and historical systems of knowledge are spatialized. The architecture not only appeared as a subject of order, but also as an object that was itself subject to the spatialized order of knowledge. What was already laid out in the world’s fair of 1867 took on a life of its own at the Paris world’s fair of 1889 to become the rue de l’habitation humaine, in which a natural history of (vernacular) architecture was meant to be embodied.

Dr. Kirsten Wagner, Professor of Cultural Studies and Communication Science at the Department of Design at Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences since 2010, previously a research assistant at the Institute of Cultural Studies at Humboldt University Berlin and in the SFB 447 “Kulturen des Performativen”. Publications: Architekturen in Fotografie und Film. Modell, Montage, Interieur, co-edited with Marie-Christin Kajewski, Berlin: Reimer, 2020; Images of the Body in Architecture.  Anthropology and Built Space, co-edited with Jasper Cepl, Tübingen, Berlin: Wasmuth, 2014; Affektive Dinge. Objektberührungen in Wissenschaft und Kunst, co-edited with Natascha Adamowsky, Robert Felfe, Marco Formisano, Georg Töpfer, Göttingen: Wallstein, 2011; Museum, Bibliothek, Stadtraum. Räumliche Wissensordnungen 1600-1900, co-edited with Robert Felfe, Berlin: LIT, 2010.

This event was part of the lecture series Built Order: Storing Knowledge.