Fair Representation: Modern Interpretations Of The 1876 Centennial Exhibition, Historic Sites, Museums, And Digital Resources


Author/Creator ORCID



Type of Work



MA in Historic Preservation

Citation of Original Publication


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Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition was an important historical event that highlighted inventions and innovations of technology and applied science. The former fairgrounds and surviving historic structures hold significant architectural and cultural importance. While it is important to save, restore, and rehabilitate these physical sites and cultural resources, it is also important to interpret the history of all the people and events connected with the sites. The contributions of certain ethnic minority cultures are not presented in the current exhibits at these sites; this action leaves portions of the Centennial’s history untold. This thesis examines the preservation practices and interpretation approaches utilized by historic sites, museums, and digital resources in the representation of ethnic minority cultures at the Centennial. It probes these questions: What are the most effective interpretive methods to incorporate when presenting the contributions of ethnic minorities to the Centennial Exhibition? What audiences should be the focus of interpretive programing? How is their awareness of the contributions of ethnic minority cultures being raised? An analysis of Centennial history, and the representation of ethnic minority groups that participated in the event, introduces the research. The examination details three case studies of historic sites, museums, and digital resources in Philadelphia that currently exhibit the history of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Through the examination of the interpretive principles and processes, and the guidelines of preservation scholars and cultural organizations, an understanding is offered regarding how interpretation approaches are used to depict the exhibition’s ethnic groups in the case studies. My findings demonstrate that the historic sites, museums, and digital resources in Philadelphia that currently exhibit the Centennial require more interpretive programming, community support, and funding programs to effectively present the history of ethnic minority cultures involved in the event. The interpretation and inclusion of ethnic groups will ensure their contributions and stories are recognized as significant history worthy of preservation.