“You Should’ve Been There!”

The 40th Anniversary of the 1982 World’s Fair

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the 1982 World’s Fair, the Museum of East Tennessee History invites you to visit the interactive, one-of-a-kind exhibition “You Should’ve Been There!” in the Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery through October 9, 2022.

Collector's plate form the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, TN
March 19, 2022 to October 9, 2022
Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery

The exhibition’s theme is not only a nod to the international exposition’s marketing catchphrase, “You Have Got to Be There! The 1982 World’s Fair!” but also an acknowledgement that four decades removed, there is a generation of East Tennesseans who were not alive to experience the historic event.

“You Should’ve Been There!” traces the fair’s development from conception to the pivotal moment when The Wall Street Journal referred to Knoxville as a “scruffy little city” and questioned its ability to host an international event. The negative publicity, however, brought out the “I’ll show you spirit” and stiffened local resolve to make it a highly successful fair. More than 11,000,000 visitors from around the world were informed and entertained in the various pavilions, exhibitions, and attractions put on by 22 countries and some 50 private organizations. Popular fair souvenirs were shirts and buttons proclaiming, “The Scruffy Little City Did It!”

The fair’s theme, “Energy Turns the World,” played to the region’s reputation as technology and science center. In fact, it was at the 1982 World’s Fair that users were able to try out a touchscreen for the first time. To honor that spirit of innovation, “You Should’ve Been There!” incorporates engaging touchscreen experiences alongside, of course, displays of original fair materials from pickle pins to deely boppers and everything in between.

We invite you to come visit this “scruffy little exhibition,” as Knoxville looks back on—and revives the spirit of—when the world came to town!

We live our dreams. We make them come true. Our ideas and energies combine in a dynamic force–the kind of force that made the developments and breakthroughs and discoveries in this building possible.
President Ronald Reagan, dedication of the US Pavilion, 1982 World’s Fair, Knoxville, Tennessee

Visit “You Should’ve Been There!” before October 9, 2022