The Queens Museum used to be the New York City Building, which was theCity’s official pavilion during the 1939-40 and 1964-65 World’s Fairs. From1946 until 1950, the New York City Building was also used as headquarters ofthe United Nations General Assembly.
The 1939-40World’s Fair was conceived to commemorate the 150th anniversary of GeorgeWashington’s inauguration, revitalize New York’s economy, and create a majornew park. Through the efforts of the New York World’s Fair Corporation, an ashdump in Flushing was transformed into a “World of Tomorrow.” 45 millionvisitors passed through the fair entrances. Its architectural symbols—theTrylon and Perisphere—appeared on tabletop radios, Tiffany’s collectibleplates, jewelry, cosmetic cases, and games. These mementos allowed the Fair’simpression of Utopia to linger long after it was demolished.
The 1964-65 Faircoincided both with the 300th anniversary of New York City and the 25thanniversary of the 1939-40 World’s Fair. Robert Moses, New York’s most prolificand recognized builder of public urban renewal projects, was president of theFair Corporation. Visitors were treated to U.S. Rubber’s 80-foot tire, whileU.S. Steel funded and built the Unisphere, still located directly outside the building.Land was available rent-free to religious organizations such as the Vatican,whose pavilion housed Michelangelo’s Pieta. ThePanorama of the City of New York, now the centerpiece of the Queens Museum, wasbuilt for the Fair and meant for use afterwards as a city planning tool.
The Museum ownsmore than 10,000 objects related to those two iconic expositions. The World’sFair Visible Storage was inaugurated after the Museum’s renovation in 2013, andfeatures over 900 objects from the larger collection. It provides anopportunity for students, scholars, and the general public to view itemsformerly off-limits to the public. All of these items have been organized bydonor so that the collections within the collection become evident.