Story: Exhibitions and world’s fairs

Buildings at the Great Exhibition, London, 1851

The three main buildings of the 1851 Great Exhibition, held in London's Hyde Park, give a sense of the scale of the displays. There were some 15,000 contributors and more than 100,000 objects on view. The most spectacular building was the Crystal Palace (bottom picture), which was designed by garden designer Joseph Paxton and constructed from plate glass and iron supports. It was a beautiful building, more than 500 metres long, which captured the imagination of visitors. Initially the entrance fee to the exhibition was expensive; but when admission was lowered to a shilling a head, the crowds poured in. In total more than 6 million people attended. The popular success of the exhibition, and the boost it provided for manufacturers and exporters around the world, encouraged other countries to copy the idea.

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Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: E-071-q-009

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'Exhibitions and world’s fairs - The purpose of exhibitions and the Great Exhibition, 1851', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 August 2022)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 22 Oct 2014