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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 1 - 10) 413 items
This is a coloured souvenir card of the Exhibition Building showing the southern facade with trees and flowers in the foreground, circa 1956. The card, which was sponsored by Colgate-Pa ...From: Melbourne, Australia Images: 3
Alternative Names: Poonah Figure, Poona Figure This clay figure of a Bengali Gentleman was made in Pune, India. It was exhibited at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880, as p ...From: Pune, India Images: 4
This glazed ornamental wall tile was made by the Campbell Brick & Tile Co. in Stoke-on-Trent, England. It is a 'inlaid' or 'encaustic' tile, meaning the design is inlaid into the body ...From: Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom Images: 1
Catalogue 'The Annual International Motor Show, 1952', issued for Annual International Motor Show, held from 23 April - 3 May 1952. The show was under the control of the Chamber of Auto ...Images: 3
Catalogue 'The Annual International Motor Show, 1938', issued for 12th Annual International Motor Show, held from 19 - 28 May, 1938. The show was under the control of the Chamber of Aut ...Images: 3
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
Invitation to the Opening of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia on 9 May 1901 sent to Mr George Frederick Michael and Lady, Secretary of the Shire of Woorayl, by His Majest ...Images: 1
Presentation watercolour by Lloyd Tayler of his design for the Exhibition Building, painted in 1878. The building represented in this watercolour marks a significant period in Melbour ...Images: 2
Ticket, addressed to T F De Courcy Browne Esq, MP, for the opening ceremony of the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition which was held on 1 August 1888. A seating plan is print ...Images: 2