The Donald G. Larson Collection.


For many years the Henry Madden Library of the California State University, Fresno has been a subscriber to the Exhibition Study Group, and has on their shelves one of the few complete run of our Journals. Their interest in Exhibitions was stimulated when it acquired in 1971 the Donald G. Larson collection of World Fairs and Exhibition material.

Larson was a man of many talents, roles and interests, a retired history instructor, political commentator, world traveller, raconteur, epicurean host and wedding cake specialist., but his one lifelong passion is World’s Fairs. Ever since he attended the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco as a young boy in 1940, he has been fascinated by world’s fairs in all their permutations. While in college at UC Berkeley he started collecting world’s fairs material and thus began his collection which kept growing by leaps and bounds until one day he realised he could no longer store and care for all of his beloved materials.

He looked to the Special Collections Library at California State University, Fresno to take on the challenge of housing, protecting, expanding and publicising his collection. Since that time , the Special Collections Library has made the Donald G Larson collection 1841 - 1940 a top priority, adding to the collection continually and ensuring that it is available to researchers from all over the world. Considered the biggest and best world’s fair collection on the West Coast, the Donald G Larson collection seeks to move forward with an ambitious project to digitise more than 8,000 photographs and post cards in the collection and to make them searchable and available to everyone on the Web. The collection contains approximately 5,600 official guides, books and pamphlets, 950 pieces of sheet music, memorabilia, and other materials from 197 different fairs held between 1851 and 1940. At present there are no research grants available but plans for a permanent endowment may make them possible in future. The Special Collections Library will be moving into new quarters in 2008 with more storage area, state of the art equipment, and a specially designed reading room and exhibit area.

For a complete list of the fairs on which we collect, please see our Web site at www.lib.csufresno.edu/subjectresources/specialcollections/worldfairs. The site also includes lists of all the photographs, post cards, and videos in the collection. All the books in the collection will eventually be accessible through the online catalogue, which is available through the libraries home page at www.lib.csufresno.edu. There is a comprehensive bibliography of secondary sources available on the Web. See “International Exhibitions, expositions Universelles and World’s Fairs 1851-1951 a bibliography” at www.theo.tu.cottbus.de/wolke/eng/bibliography/expobibliography.htm or www.lib.csufresno.edu/subjectresources/specialcollections/worldfairs/bibliographies.html.

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© Exhibition Study Group 2005