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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 51 - 60) 147 items
Copy of The Australian Sketcher, no. 191, vol. XIII, Melbourne, Saturday, 8 April 1885, pp. 49-64. Page 49 is the front page of the newspaper and has a highly decorative masthead and de ...Images: 1
Single page, printed on both sides, of The Leader, Tuesday, 25 August 1868. The Leader was a bi-weekly Journal published in Tasmania, price 1 penny. At top of column three, on one sid ...Images: 1
Newspaper extract of The Illustrated London News, Saturday, 7 August 1886, pp.153-160. Page 153 is the front page of the section on the Victorian Court at the Colonial and Indian Exhi ...Images: 9
A newspaper page from The Illustrated London News, March 2, 1867, p. 216, featuring a hand coloured lithograph showing the interior of the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition, held at th ...Images: 1
'Catalogue of Pictures, Drawings and Art Objects' lent to the Royal Commission for the Australian International Exhibitions, published by the Royal Commission, London, 1879. The Royal C ...Images: 1
Second edition of the 'Official Record of the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880 -1881'. Available for purchase at Melbourne's first international exhibition, the record provides ...Images: 1
Hand-written letter from Roma Wright to 'Roy' . She speaks of their evening together the previous night ('It was the happiest night I ever spent in my life'), and tells Roy about her fa ...Images: 1
Two-page letter to Howard from Nell, written on letterhead paper inscribed: A.C.F., RSL, THE SALVATION ARMY, AND Y.M.C.A. Nell thanks Howard for the locket. She has just returned home ...From: Wingham, Australia Images: 4
Official guide to 1939 Home and Building Exhibition held at the Royal Exhibition Building Melbourne from Februrary 17th to March 4th 1939, promoted by the Board of Publicity, Building ...Images: 6
Official catalogue for the International Motor Show at the Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne 1976. The event was sponsored by the Australian Automobile Dealers Association (Victoria), und ...Images: 3