Montréal hosted the iconic 1967 International and Universal Exposition – more commonly known as Expo 67 – to celebrate Canada’s centennial year. While the city had long been a choice visitors’ destination, Expo 67 put Montréal on the international map, and influenced the worlds of fashion, science, architecture and entertainment.
Expo 67 set world records
Expo 67 was a Category One World’s Fair, the first to be called “Expo” and became the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century. With 60 participating nations and 90 pavilions representing “Man and His World” themes, Expo 67 set a single-day attendance record for a world’s fair, with 569,500 visitors on its third day, and 50,306,648 over six months, not counting over 5 million admissions by performers, the press, official visitors and employees. Today Expo 67 ranks as the fourth most popular world exposition of all time, after Shanghai, Osaka and Paris.
Also celebrating its centenary, the CIBC’s on-site branch at Expo 67 served up to 10,000 customers each day, seven days a week – or some 1.8 million customers in 183 days!
Montréal welcomes the world in 1967
Many world leaders visited Expo 67, which also drew the world’s greatest orchestras, ballet and theatre companies – including many, like the full companies of La Scala and the Bolshoi Opera, making their North American debuts. Entertainers included Luciano Pavarotti and Marlene Dietrich, to Petula Clark and The Supremes, who starred on The Ed Sullivan Show twice broadcast live from Expo 67. During the six months of the exposition, some 6,000 star-studded free concerts were presented on the Expo grounds.
Architectural gems from Expo 67
Expo 67 also made its mark on architecture: the famed and revolutionary Habitat 67 housing complex was designed by Moshe Safdie, and the former pavilion of the United States – a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller – today houses the environmental Biosphere museum. The French and Quebec pavilions are now home to the Casino de Montréal.
Fashioning Expo 67
Fashion was also central to Expo 67, where the uniform of the hostesses at the UK Pavilion became a huge sensation: the then-new miniskirt style popularized by Mary Quant. Today, cutting-edge fashion in Montréal and Canada at the time are explored in the McCord Museum’s Fashioning Expo 67 exhibition.
Montréal museums celebrate Expo 67
Montréal museums have programmed blockbuster exhibitions championing the legacy of Expo 67, including Expo 67 – A World of Dreams at the Stewart Museum, Explosion 67 – Youth and Their World at the Centre d’histoire de Montréal, the immersive Révolution: “You say you want a revolution” at Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, and In Search of Expo 67 at the Musée d’art contemporain (known locally as “the MAC”).
The MMFA is also presenting La Balade pour la Paix: An Open-Air Museum, a major outdoor international public art exhibition showcasing 67 pieces that convey a message of peace, reflecting the universal values of humanism, tolerance and openness that inspired Expo 67.
Passport to Expo 67 memories
Meanwhile, a new, free connected passport will be available for 14 events commemorating the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 that are part of the official program for Montréal’s 375th anniversary. Inspired by the iconic original Expo 67 passport, the new version, connected via RFID chip, allows holders to take advantage of a range of exclusive content and additional offers for the exhibitions.
The new passport is available in paper (from participating businesses presenting an event during Expo 67 – 50 years later beginning April 28) and electronic formats. The electronic version can be found on the 375 MTL app.
Expo 67 at the movies
For those who wish to learn more about the world expo that defined a generation and whose influence can still be felt in Montréal, Québec and Canada, check out the documentary thriller Expo 67 Mission Impossible about how the greatest universal exposition of the 20th century came to be.
Also, click here for a comprehensive photo collection and history of Expo 67 and its legacy.