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The Great Exhibition of 1851

With all eyes on London for the 2012 Olympics, England’s capital is showcasing the world’s athletic achievements.

In 1851, London hosted a world’s fair to highlight cultures and industries. An enormous glass and cast-iron building known as the Crystal Palace was erected in London’s Hyde Park to house the fair.  The Great Exhibition brought together the artistic and technical achievements of the Victoria era, with exhibitors from Great Britain and its Colonies (including India, Australia, and New Zealand), European countries, and the United States.  Over 13,000 exhibits were on display, and the Exhibition brought in over 6,200,000 visitors during the weeks of May 1-October 15, 1851.

Special Collections has an extensive collection of accounts of the Great Exhibition of 1851, from contemporary histories of the exhibition and specific displays, copies of the official exhibit guide and the weekly magazine produced for the exhibit, dioramas of the Crystal Palace, and other memorials of the Great Exhibition, both comic and serious.  Coverage of the Great Exhibition can also be found in contemporary periodicals like The Illustrated London News and Punch.  The illustration of the interior of the Crystal Palace shown here is from Recollections of the Great Exhibition of 1851, issued by London publishers Lloyd Brothers & Co. and Simpkin, Marshall & Co.

To find accounts of the Great Exhibition in Special Collections, search the library catalog for the subject “Great Exhibition 1851.”

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