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Omaha’s 1898 World’s Fair will be on display at Omaha Public Library

Omaha’s 1898 World’s Fair will be on display at Omaha Public Library
January 27, 2014
Exhibit opening reception to feature author Timothy Schaffert

The launch of Timothy Schaffert’s new book, The Swan Gondola, set amid Omaha’s 1898 World’s Fair, gives Omaha Public Library an opportunity to revisit its collection of Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition memorabilia. Travel back in time and visit a special exhibit dedicated to Omaha’s World’s Fair at W. Dale Clark Main Library, 215 S. 15th St., in the Michael Phipps Gallery. The exhibit runs February 7-28, and is open to the public during normal library hours. Explore artifacts and photography, including contributions from The Durham Museum and private collectors, from one of Nebraska’s most spectacular events.

All are welcome to attend an opening reception for the exhibit on Friday, February 7 at 6 p.m. Copies of The Swan Gondola will be available for purchase and Schaffert will sign books following a discussion of his work. The Swan Gondola shares the tale of ventriloquist Ferret Skerritt, who can’t imagine that anything majestic could really happen in Omaha. That is, until he encounters the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, and the fair becomes the backdrop for their achingly romantic, possibly doomed love affair.

“When I first learned about the Expo, my imagination got all caught up in it,” said Schaffert. “If you read the newspaper coverage of the time, there are hundreds of strange and fascinating details, not just about the Expo, but about the City of Omaha at this pivotal period in its history. I was particularly intrigued by the entertainers -- the magicians and musicians and actors and dancers that peopled the fair's Midway.”

The title of Schaffert’s book is derived from one of the many unique attractions from the 1898 World’s Fair. Buildings filled with the most modern inventions and technology surrounded a 2,000 foot-long lagoon, where visitors could ride a giant swan boat or Venetian gondola. The OPL exhibition and Schaffert’s book open a window to the past and allow interested individuals a chance to learn more about the event that brought worldwide attention to Omaha, and spurred economic and cultural growth for decades to follow. 

 “Many people don’t even know that Omaha hosted a World’s Fair,” said Omaha Public Library executive director Gary Wasdin. “A 184-acre city constructed primarily of hemp fiber and plaster of Paris saw more than 2.6 million visitors from around the world in just five months! This exhibition provides a great opportunity to discover why.”

Visit for more information on upcoming events at Omaha Public Library’s 12 metro locations.
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