“This day is one of the greatest and most glorious of our lives...” – (Queen Victoria, 1851)
In this essay, as advised by Professor Joanne Paisana, I will be writing about the Great Exhibition of 1851, which was arguably a milestone in technology, more specifically the reaction of some people who witnessed it, including the role of the media during the exhibition, and the presence of ethnicities in the exhibition.
What is an exhibition?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it is “an event at which objects such as paintings are shown to the public, a situation in which someone shows a particular skill or quality to the public, or the act of showing these things”.
At first, they had no choice, without the public, they had to go on with only the private funds, however after facing a great struggle (Prince Albert would only establish a Royal Commission if he had the public support for this project), they decided to take the project to public contractors, Messrs James and George Munday, who agreed to do it under certain conditions.
They successfully established the Royal Commission on January of 1850, but had to terminate the contract with James and Munday, due to the press being against the funding of a public and national building through the private sector. The society had no choice but making the project to a public and national responsibility.
In the end, it was decided that the Great Exhibition was to be funded by the people with voluntary donations. As we can see “whilst the City of London contributed £26,632, Bradford contributed £1,605, Glasgow £2,666 and Rochester £13.”
Opinions on the Exhibition
The Exhibition caused a lot of controversy before and after opening. Before it opened, some conservatives thought that would cause a revolutionary mob; others like Prince Albert thought it “would bring nations together in a spirit of friendly rivalry, following the social upheavals of the previous decade”.
After it opened, the opinions were mostly favourable as we can see in this review by the Daily News: “Yesterday opened beautifully fine. (…) The multitude had a double object – to see at the same time the Crystal Palace and the Queen. (…) Excellent order was maintained throughout. (…) It should be understood that there was no ‘mob’”.
Yesterday I went for the second time to the Crystal Palace. We remained in it about three hours, and I must say I was more struck with it on this occasion than at my first visit. It is a wonderful place – vast, strange, new and impossible to describe. Its grandeur does not consist in one thing, but in the unique assemblage of all things. Whatever human industry has created you find there, from the great compartments filled with railway engines and boilers, with mill machinery in full work, with splendid carriages of all kinds, with harness of every description, to the glass-covered and velvet-spread stands loaded with the most gorgeous work of the goldsmith and silversmith, and the carefully guarded caskets full of real diamonds and pearls worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. It may be called a bazaar or a fair, but it is such a bazaar or fair as Eastern genii might have created. It seems as if only magic could have gathered this mass of wealth from all the ends of the earth – as if none but supernatural hands could have arranged it this, with such a blaze and contrast of colours and marvellous power of effect. The multitude filling the great aisles seems ruled and subdued by some invisible influence. Amongst the thirty thousand souls that peopled it the day I was there not one loud noise was to be heard, not one irregular movement seen; the living tide rolls on...