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Researching the Century 21 Exposition

The Century 21 Exposition, better known as the Seattle World's Fair, took place in Seattle from April 21 to October 21, 1962. The first American world's fair after World War II, it presented an optimistic vision of a future improved through science and technology and promoted Seattle to the world as a space-age city. Exhibits focused on industry, commerce, science, and the future, but also included fine arts, food, and entertainment. Ten million people attended the fair, and it left Seattle with many lasting legacies, including the Space Needle, the Monorail, and Seattle Center.

In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the World's Fair in 2012, many Seattle-area libraries and repositories have digitized primary and secondary source materials related to the fair. This research guide brings together all the collections that are available, both digital and physical.

Online Resources

Century 21 Digital Collection – The Seattle Public Library

Books, brochures, reports, and other textual documents; nearly 1500 photographs of the fair; and links to other useful electronic resources, such as articles and websites.

Century 21 Digital Document Library – Seattle Municipal Archives

Scanned original documents related to the City of Seattle's involvement with the World's Fair, including Fair preparations and controversy surrounding housing for the Fair. Also includes bibliography of materials available at the Seattle Municipal Archives.

Century 21 Lesson Plans – Museum of History & Industry

Lesson plans for studying the Century 21 Exposition. Includes links to a small number of scanned documents and images.

Century 21 Subject Guide – University of Washington Libraries

Bibliography and guide to the University of Washington Libraries' extensive holdings of archival, print, and photographic materials relating to the Seattle World's Fair in 1962. Includes links to item descriptions and finding aids in the University of Washington Library catalog, and digital items if available.

Digital Collections – University of Washington Libraries

The University of Washington Libraries' digital collections, which include hundreds of scanned images and publications related to the World's Fair, including items from both the University of Washington and Museum of History and Industry collections.

Free online encyclopedia of Washington State history. Includes dozens of articles related to the Century 21 Exposition, as well as a World's Fair curriculum for educators.

Larson World's Fair Collection – Henry Madden Library

Digitized photographs, postcards, and posters of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair from the Larson World's Fair Collection at the Special Collections Research Center at the Henry Madden Library of California State University, Fresno.

Seattle Times Historical Archives – The Seattle Public Library

Seattle Times newspapers 1900–1984, digitized, searchable, printable, and downloadable, including thousands of articles about the World's Fair. This resource requires a Seattle Public Library card for remote access.

Stories from the Seattle World's Fair – The Next Fifty

Interactive site that collects and displays personal stories from the Seattle World's Fair. View others' stories of the fair or contribute your own.

Places to Visit

Museum of History & Industry

Photographs, construction documents, and other archival materials related to the Century 21 Exposition. Some materials have been digitized and are available via the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections website. Finding aids for relevant collections, which also include links to electronic materials, are available via the Northwest Digital Archives website.

2700 24th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98112-2099
Phone: 206-324-1126
Hours: By appointment.

National Archives and Records Administration

NARA holds records related to the federal government's involvement with the World's Fair, most notably the United States Science Pavilion.

Pacific Alaska Region
6125 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, Washington 98115-7999
Phone: 206-336-5115

Puget Sound Regional Archives

As the Seattle-area branch of the Washington State Archives, PSRA houses official records related to the state's substantial involvement in the World's Fair.

3000 Landerholm Circle SE
Bellevue Community College Building N
Bellevue, WA 98007-6484
Phone: (425) 564-3940
Appointments recommended

Seattle Municipal Archives

Most of the Seattle Municipal Archives' collection has not been digitized and is available only in person at the archives. The physical collection includes textual records, maps and drawings, photographs and moving images, and publications, primarily related to city involvement in the Fair. An online bibliography of sources details the available records.

Third Floor, City Hall
600 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98124-4728
Phone: 206-233-7807 or 206-684-8353
Appointments recommended.

The Seattle Public Library – Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room

Located on the 10th floor of the Central Library, the Seattle Room includes primary and secondary sources related to the Century 21 Exposition, and also provides research assistance. The majority of these materials are included in the Library's digital collection, but some materials are only available in person.

Central Library, Level 10
1000 Fourth Ave.
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-386-4636

University of Washington Libraries Special Collections

Many photographs, publications, and documents in the UW Libraries collection have been digitized, but many more are only available in person. Special Collections at UW houses a significant collection of primary and secondary sources related to the Fair. The online guide listed above lists both electronic and physical items.

Special Collections Division
University of Washington Libraries
Allen Library South, Basement
Box 352900
Seattle, WA 98195-2900
Phone: 206-543-1929
Contact form:

Other Useful Sources

The following materials are widely available at local libraries and historical organizations. Links in this document are to item descriptions in The Seattle Public Library catalog.

Becker, Paula, and Alan J. Stein. The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World's Fair and Its Legacy. Seattle, Wash.: Seattle Center Foundation, 2011.

Duncan, Don. Meet Me at the Center: The Story of Seattle Center from the Beginnings to the 1962 Seattle World's Fair to the 21st Century. Seattle, Wash.?: Seattle Center Foundation, 1992

Findlay, John M. Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture After 1940. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992

Morgan, Murray. Century 21: The Story of the Seattle World's Fair, 1962. Seattle: Acme Press; distributed by University of Washington Press, 1963.

Select the collections to add or remove from your search