Two pieces viewers should be sure not to miss have nothing in common, a tribute to the diversity of a world’s fair. The first is the famous Elektro the Moto-Man, one of the first robots in existence. Elektro, a gold robot reminiscent of a heavy C-3PO from the “Star Wars” series, talked, counted and smoked to entertain fairgoers. He was built by Westinghouse for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
The other striking piece is a painting by Miguel Covarrubias that was commissioned for the Golden Gate International Exposition’s Pacific House in 1939. “Transportation,” a wonderful map of the world with a focus on the Pacific Rim, shows what form of transportation was typically found in each region — alpaca mules in the Andes Mountains, sled dogs in Siberia, merchant ships in south Asia, and a propeller plane, the most advanced technology of the time, off the coast of California.
“Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s” will be on display at the National Building Museum through July 10.