Protecting the past Albert Robida and the Vieux Paris exhibit at the 1900 World’s Fair

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2005

Journal / Book Title

Journal of European Studies


The 1900 Paris World’s Fair prided itself on the modernity of its exhibits. Paradoxically, however, one of its most successful attractions proved to be Le Vieux Paris, a picturesque model city built along the Seine to ‘bring Old Paris back to life’. Designer Albert Robida chose not only to create a picturesque and entertaining model of life in old France, but to construct the exhibit as a locus of cultural memory. In it he glorified French accomplishments, while attempting to redress his contemporaries’ neglect of their shared architectural and literary heritage. Using the popular exhibit as a device for celebrating national achievement, he inspired widespread appreciation of French heritage, thereby invigorating a nascent conservation moment.