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Photograph of Painting of Pocahontas, copied by W. L. Sheppard, 1939

Context

Touted as the largest and most magnificent exposition of all time, the New York World’s Fair opened at Flushing Meadow in April 1939. In the Court of States, one exhibition was strikingly different from the rest: the Virginia Room, “an island of quiet” amid the fair’s raucous and more sensational attractions. Leslie Cheek, Jr., designer of the Virginia Room, and his team of artists developed a plan for a spacious circular lounge with the visitor’s focus drawn to an ornamental fountain theatrically lit from above and below. The design offered tired fairgoers a place to sit, a chance to enjoy a complimentary glass of ice water served by a white-jacketed waiter, and an array of large photograph albums prepared by the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce.

Taken together, the Virginia Room albums can be thought of as a sprawling infomercial for the state, promoting it as a place not just of historic shrines and natural beauty, but as one of scientific, artistic, and intellectual sophistication, a modern state of concrete highways and Negro colleges, world-class museums and business-friendly public policies. When the World’s Fair closed, it was estimated that well over a million people had visited the Virginia Room and viewed its photograph collection.

Citation: Among the portraits in the State Library at Richmond is the painting of Pocahontas, copied by W. L. Sheppard, Virginia New York World's Fair Commission, 1939. WF_04_01_017.jpg, Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia

Standards

1.12, 2.12, 3.8 3.12, VS.1, VS.2 VS.4, VS.7, VS.8 VS.9, VS.10, USI.2, USI.9 WHII.9, WG.1 WG.3, WG.4 WG.9, VUS.10

Suggested Questions

Up for Debate: If the Virginia Room albums had been limited to only 10 photos, would this be one you would have included? Why or why not?

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