Search the collections
Royal Exhibition Building Collection
Image: Watercolour - The Exhibition Building, Melbourne, Framed, 1880
Source: Museum Victoria
The Royal Exhibition Building is a product of the optimism, enthusiasm and energy of the people of Melbourne in the late 19th century. In 1879, when the foundation stone was laid, Melbourne was an extremely prosperous city, basking in the wealth from the richest gold rush in the world. The future seemed unlimited, and Victorians wanted to publicise their achievements in an international exhibition.
The building was designed by Joseph Reed and erected in less than 18 months. The first exhibition opened on 1 October 1880. The excited crowd included many who had immigrated during the 1850's gold rush. They had seen Melbourne change from a scatter of wooden houses to a marvellous modern city. The new Exhibition Building, the largest building in Australia, was a symbol of their confidence in the future. The 1880-81 International Exhibition attracted entries from 33 countries and over a million visitors.
The boom times continued, and in 1888 at the Centennial International Exhibition, annexes full of displays covered the gardens north to Carlton Street, and people made 2 million visits.
The Opening of the First Federal Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia on 9 May 1901 saw 12,000 people attend the ceremony in the Great Hall. The restored interior replicates the decorative scheme designed for that event.
In 1919, the building was used as a temporary hospital for Spanish Flu sufferers; from 1921-1925 the first Australian War Museum was housed there (the precursor to the Australian War Memorial); between 1941 and 1945 the building was requisitioned by the RAAF No 1 Technical Training School; from 1949-1962 a migrant reception centre was housed in the grounds north of the great hall; and in 1956 weight liftingting, basketball and wrestling competitions were held as part of the Melbourne Olympics. Between these events the building has continued to be used for trade fairs, motor shows, balls, meetings, flower shows, examinations and rock concerts.
To mark its centenary in 1980, Princess Alexandra, cousin to Queen Elizabeth II, bestowed Royal title on the Exhibition Building. Its significance as the only surviving 19th century 'Palace of Industry' located in its original landscape setting, still used for events, saw the Royal Exhibition Building listed on the World Heritage Register in July 2004.
The Royal Exhibition Collection of well over 5,000 objects reflects all aspects of the building's history: objects displayed at the two great International Exhibitions; souvenirs; certificates and medals awarded to exhibitors and commissioners; invitations to concerts, balls and the opening of parliament: catalogues to the International Exhibition and museum displays. The collection also contains photographs of the building from the 1880s to the present day, and other pictorial reproductions including watercolours, postcards and lithographic prints.
Items per page: 10 50 (showing 71 - 80) 1823 items
Hand coloured wood block engraving from the front page of the Illustrated Australian News Special Exhibition Number, No. 294, Melbourne, Saturday, 9 October, 1880, pp. 177-78, published ...Images: 1
Black and white wood block engraving from The Australasian Sketcher. 6 September, 1888, p. 140, published by Wilson & McKinnon, Melbourne. The engraving depicts the view eastwards down ...Images: 1
Black and white engravings and text from The Australian Sketcher, 6 Nov 1880, pp. 295-96, published by Wilson & McKinnon, Melbourne. Page 295 consists of three columns of news and artic ...Images: 1
Black and white engravings and text from The Australian Sketcher, Saturday, 20 November 1880, pp. 315-16, published by Alfred May and Alfred Martin Ebsworth for Wilson & McKinnon, Melbo ...Images: 1
Official catalogue for the 1935 International Jubilee Motor Show, held at the Exhibition Buildings, Carlton Gardens, between 13-22 June 1935. Large exhibitors included Austin, Buick, B ...Images: 2
Musical programme for the reception held by the Government of Victoria in honour of Albert and Elizabeth, the Duke and Duchess of York, at the Exhibition Building, 28 April 1927. Fourte ...Images: 4
Publication titled in full 'Illustrated Official Handbook to the Aquarium, Picture Galleries and Museum Collections under the control of the Exhibition Trustees, also description of Cyc ...Images: 3
Coloured lithographic print titled 'The Melbourne Centennial Exhibition, 1888', produced as a supplement to the Australasian newspaper on 4 August 1888 by Troedel & Company, lithographe ...Images: 1
No Image Available
Framed original print, with hand-written annotations, titled 'The Melbourne International Exhibition 1880/ Plan of Gardens'. The print is framed in a maple eye wooden frame with a green ...Images: 0
Double-sided page from The Australasian Sketcher, Saturday, 24 July 1880, pp.163-64, published by Wilson & McKinnon, Melbourne. Page 163 includes a small article describing the arriva ...Images: 1