Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction 1780-1910

Exhibition Website

Jul 1 2016 - Feb 26 2017

Travel with us to the surface of the moon, the center of the earth, and the depths of the ocean — to the fantastic worlds of fiction inspired by 19th-century discovery and invention.

New frontiers of science were emerging. We took to the air, charted remote corners of the earth, and harnessed the power of steam and electricity. We began unlocking the secrets of the natural world. The growing literate middle class gave science a new and avid public audience. Writers explored the farther reaches of the new scientific landscape to craft novels, hoaxes, and satires.

Fantastic Worlds is the first exhibition to debut in the newly renovated Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition Gallery. Visitors will learn about this fascinating period in history through works ranging from newspaper hoaxes, works of popular science, novels, and more that exposed an eager and curious public to new ideas. The exhibit serves as a tour of imaginative tales and the scientific discoveries that inspired them when the science fiction genre was just beginning to come into its own. Top hat and goggles are not required to take this trip to a world revolutionized by technology, populated with inspired minds (perhaps even a few mad scientists), and transformed by discovery.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.

  • 19th Century
  • Various artists

Exhibition Venues & Dates