Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Atomium: Brussels Worlds Fair 1958

The first time I was in Belgium in 1969, I remember driving along a small residential street and there at the end were these giant steel balls in the air! It was unbelievable.Well, those steel balls are still there. And they are worth a visit if you are ever in Brussels, since today they have been converted into a museum celebrating the 1958 Worlds Fair, which like Expo 67 in Montreal, helped put the city on the world map.As you travel through the steel tubes connecting the balls, you are reminded of what the world was like 51 years ago....the cold war between America and Russia, the fascination with 'modern things', streamlined toasters and cars, and plastics. In some respects, everything old is new again. The museum featured two cars, the mini and a small fiat, both of which have been reproduced in recent years.Outside, the Atomium's new electric car was parked.From the top one gets a fabulous view of the rest of the fairgrounds, including a miniature village and a model of the European Community. After all, it was about this time that EEC was being formed. Inside was a proud, impressive display on the Belgium Congo, although it became an independent country only two years later.As I get older, I wish I had paid more attention to what was happening around the world when I was younger! But fortunately, with exhibitions like Atomium we can relieve the past with its fashions, music, cars. As Vancouver ages, I think we need to give more thought as to how best document and celebrate our history. When was the last time you went to the Vancouver Museum? Precisely.

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