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Health on Display: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition as Sanitary Venue
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Cinema Studies. Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Media Studies.
2014 (English)In: Performing New Media: 1890-1915 / [ed] Kaveh Askari, Scott Curtis mfl, New Barnet: John Libbey Publishing, 2014, 1, 174-185 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The early 20th century teemed with progressive initiatives aimed at improving and modernizing American everyday life. These uplift campaigns, initiated in top-down fashion, zoomed in on sanitation, working conditions, childcare, education, and recreation. The strive for better health conditions brought together a cross-section of civic movements and organizations, which in turn inspired the implementation of governmental infrastructures at federal, state or municipal level.

In exhibitions and campaign work, visual materials were often used in order to catch the public’s attention. Moving pictures’ putative pedagogical might and potential for civic education underpinned the work to raise awareness about modern society and its social and sanitary shortcomings, or ”evils” in contemporary vernacular. From 1910 on, and in this spirit, moving pictures were regularly taken up as a pedagogical tool for health campaigns in a multitude of contexts across the U.S. Even if moving pictures were perhaps the most important vehicle for public health work, an array of visual media was brought together for maximum intermedial exposure for the causes at hand:  lantern slides, models, posters, pamphlets, cartoons, billboards, newspaper articles and ads.

An important venue, in a sense summing up an array of visual health campaigns and placing them adjacent to each other, as it were, within a broader form of exhibition practice, was the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco 1915. This chapter explores the health exhibits and their use of media at PPE in the multitude of national as well as international projects put on display. Among the participants were the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease (a campaign that would get a more international direction after 1915), the U.S. sanitary campaign in Panama, the Bureau of Public Health Education (a specialized branch within the Department of Health of the City of New York), the Fly-Fighting Committee of the American Civic Association, to mention only a select few. And for additional emphasis, October 12, 1915 was singled out as a Health Day at the exhibition. Due to the anthology of sanitary displays in place, PPE became a key progressive hub by putting public health on the agenda and creating added social awareness for such issues. Furthermore, these didactic initiatives and exhibition practices would serve as a model also for future work outside the U.S.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New Barnet: John Libbey Publishing, 2014, 1. 174-185 p.
Keyword [en]
Panama-Pacific International Exposition, World's fair, healh expositions, educational films
National Category
Humanities Studies on Film
Research subject
Cinema Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-106002ISBN: 9780861967148OAI: diva2:734170
Film i upplysningens tjänst: hälsopropaganda och social aktivism i USA 1910-1930
Swedish Research Council, 1472801
Available from: 2014-07-15 Created: 2014-07-15 Last updated: 2014-08-26Bibliographically approved

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Dahlquist, Marina
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Department of Cinema StudiesDepartment of Media Studies
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