You Should Have Been There World's Fair Exhibition

601 South Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
601 South Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
  • Date(s): March 5, 2022 to October 9, 2022
  • Event Times: Monday - Friday 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, and Sunday 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
  • Price: Adult - $10 Senior - $8 Children (16 and younger) – Free Free on Sundays
  • Location: East Tennessee History Center



“The persistent energies of people from this region have produced a forum for the people of the world to gather and examine how ‘Energy Turns the World.’”–Jake F. Butcher, chairman, 1982 World’s Fair

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the 1982 World’s Fair, the Museum of East Tennessee History invites you to visit the interactive, one-of-a-kind exhibition “You Should Have Been There!” in the Rogers-Claussen Feature Gallery from March 5 to October 9, 2022.  

The exhibition’s theme is not only a nod to the international exposition’s marketing catchphrase, “You Have Got to Be There! The 1982 World’s Fair!” but also an acknowledgement that four decades removed, there is a generation of East Tennesseans who were not alive to experience the historic event.  

“You Should Have Been There!” traces the fair’s development from conception to the pivotal moment when The Wall Street Journal referred to Knoxville as a “scruffy little city” and questioned its ability to host an international event. The negative publicity, however, brought out the “I’ll show you spirit” and stiffened local resolve to make it a highly successful fair. More than 11,000,000 visitors from around the world were informed and entertained in the various pavilions, exhibitions, and attractions put on by 22 countries and some 50 private organizations. Popular fair souvenirs were shirts and buttons proclaiming, “The Scruffy Little City Did It!”

The fair’s theme, “Energy Expo,” played to the region’s reputation as technology and science center. In fact, it was at the 1982 World’s Fair that users were able to try out a touchscreen for the first time. To honor that spirit of innovation, “You Should Have Been There!” incorporates engaging touchscreen experiences alongside, of course, displays of original fair materials from pickle pins to deely-boppers and everything in between.

We invite you to come visit this “scruffy little" exhibition, as Knoxville looks back on—and revives the spirit of—when the world came to town!

You Should Have Been There World's Fair Exhibition
  • to
  • East Tennessee History Center
  • Adult - $10 Senior - $8 Children (16 and younger) – Free Free on Sundays