World Expo 88, 25 Years of Memories

Brisbane, 30 April 1988. Uniforms have been fitted, performers have rehearsed, and construction has been completed for the 1988 World Exposition. The average temperature is a cool twenty-two degrees. People pour through the gates, into the pavilions or onto the monorail. More than 77,000 will visit by the end of the day.

Queen Elizabeth II speaking at the opening of Expo '88 in South Bank, Queensland, 1988. State Library of Queensland. Image: 10028-0001-0065

Queen Elizabeth II speaking at the opening of Expo '88 in South Bank, Queensland, 1988

Expo 88 was opened by Queen Elizabeth II. She spoke of the World Exposition’s history as a showcase of technological advancement, from ‘such novelties as the telegraph and the sewing machine’ in 1851, to the lasers and spaceships of 1970. Brisbane continued this theme in spectacular fashion. Dazzling light displays and well-crafted parade floats were visual feasts, and talking robots stationed at the entrance beckoned visitors inside.

Neon lights light up Expo 88 in South Bank Queensland 1988. State Library of Queensland. Image number: 10028-0001-0049

Neon lights light up Expo 88 in South Bank Queensland 1988

When Her Majesty addressed the crowds at the Opening Ceremony, she concluded her speech with the words ‘I now declare World Expo 88 well and truly open’. VIPs applauded, thousands cheered, and balloons were released into the sky. Brisbane braced itself for a barrage of local, national, and international visitors.

 

Day Parade float, 'You Are What You Eat', at Expo '88 in South Bank, Queensland, 1988

Few anticipated just how – dare I say? – exponentially the attendance numbers would grow. 77 000 was only a fraction of the number of visitors to Expo over the next six months. It was a place of colour and sound, movement and technology, and it was truly multicultural.

Talking robot at Expo '88 in South Bank, Queensland, 1988. State Library of Queensland. Image number: 10028-0002-0007

Talking robot at Expo '88 in South Bank, Queensland, 1988

The State Library’s online catalogue One Search includes newly digitised Expo 88 images available for the first time online, both in black and white and in full colour. These photographs have captured moments many of us never saw, and which will never be seen again. But for those who witnessed the year Brisbane hosted the World Exposition, the memories of that time will live forever.

Grace Howell – [Grace is a field work student currently assigned to State Library of Queensland]