Jan. 15 Olson Seminar to cover Omaha's 1898 World's Fair

Released on 01/06/2014, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014

WHERE: Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q St., Hewit Place

Lincoln, Neb., January 6th, 2014 —
Timothy Schaffert
Timothy Schaffert
"The Swan Gondola" dust cover

            In 1898, Omaha was both a city on the rise as well as a frontier town, a split personality highlighted at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition -- a world's fair in the Great Plains.

            That will be the theme of the next Paul A. Olson Seminar in Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when UNL English professor Timothy Schaffert presents "Summer Souvenirs and 'The Swan Gondola': Reinventing the World's Fair." Schaffert will speak at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 15 in the Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q St. The event is free and open to the public.

            Schaffert will share images from the new Trans-Mississippi Exposition digital archive and discuss how the fair captured the best and the worst of popular entertainment and culture of the time.

            Schaffert's novel on the same topic, "The Swan Gondola," will be released in February. The book features the story of a ventriloquist and magician working the vaudeville theaters of Omaha and his infatuation with an actress who works in the Chamber of Horrors of the Fair's midway. Schaffert said the exposition consisted of palaces and gardens, and also a midway of dirt roads and collapsible shacks, reflecting the split personality of Omaha -- a bustling city, while still a frontier town content with brothels, saloons and swindling cops.

            "I relied on documents and artifacts, while also bending, adapting and reconsidering the historical record, to create an 'authentic' portrait of Omaha in all its eccentricity and ambition," he said.

            The lecture will be live streamed online at https://connect.unl.edu/gpc-olson and the video will be posted on the Center for Great Plains Studies website, http://www.unl.edu/plains.

            Upcoming Olson seminars:

            Feb. 26, 3:30 p.m. -- "A Prophet without Honor? Malthus on the Great Plains," a lecture on population change in the Great Plains with Derek Hoff, an economic historian at Kansas State University.

            March 19, 3:30 p.m. -- Immigration policy and consequences, Miguel Carranza, professor of sociology and Latina/Latino studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Writer: Katie Nieland