University of Cambridge > > Twentieth Century Think Tank > The fall of Johnstown: exhibiting disasters at the turn of the 20th century

The fall of Johnstown: exhibiting disasters at the turn of the 20th century

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Helen Curry.

The talk will explore aspects of the history of what may be labelled the disaster display or disaster show. This refers to a particular genre of multimedia re-enactments of extreme events that developed in the context of temporary exhibitions and popular amusements in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Disaster displays typically involved visual representations, sound effects, fireworks, lectures and theatrical performances, and invited their audiences to experience distant wars, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, fire fighting and floods. In offering a blend of special effects and the thrills of authenticity, disaster shows copied and competed with, and sometimes incorporated, some of the traits of a variety of attractions in turn-of-the-century popular visual culture, such as serialized wax displays, moving panoramas and early film.

This talk is part of the Twentieth Century Think Tank series.

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