Intercolonial and international exhibitions

People, exhibits and prizewinners at key intercolonial and international exhibitions 1854-1889, and the buildings that housed Victorian exhibitions.

Melbourne Exhibition 1854

This was the first major exhibition organised in Melbourne in the nineteenth century. It was organised to bring together goods suitable for exhibition at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1855. The Melbourne Exhibition opened on 17 October 1854 and ran until 12 December 1854.

Online resources

Melbourne’s first Exhibition Building Blog:

  • Melbourne’s grand glass Exhibition Hall, built for a 1854 Exhibition and inspired by London’s famous Crystal Palace, reflected the ambition and confidence of the fledgling new colony of Victoria. Read all about the history of the building.

The official catalogue of the exhibition

  • Published in 1855 it was a modest 36 page pamphlet which did little more than list the items on display. The exhibits were divided into categories such as Fine Arts, Mining, Natural History, Machinery and a separate listing for 'Contributions from Bendigo'. Unfortunately there are no illustrations so we can only imagine what Exhibit 50 'Various specimens of artificial teeth and dental apparatus in a mahogany pedestal revolving by clockwork' or Exhibit 78 'A pair of boots with revolving heels' looked like.

Victoria government gazette, 27 February 1855

  • Medal winners for this exhibition were published in the on pages 556-560. Navigate to page 556 to read the names of the winners.

Newspaper reports

A description of the opening ceremony and the main exhibits was published in The Argus, 18 October 1854, page 4.

Paris. Exposition Universelle 1855

The Paris Exposition Universelle (Universal Exhibition) was held from 15 May until 15 November 1855. Exhibitors at the 1854 Melbourne Exhibition had the opportunity to send material to Paris for show in the Exposition Universelle. 

Online resources

Find digitised copies of many French-language books, journals and images relating to this exhibition by using the Gallica search engine.

Resources at the Library

Catalogue of the British section
Includes the British Colonies, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Lists Victorian exhibits on page 132 (only 30 listed).

Rapports du jury mixte international
Reports of the jury, 1574 pages written in French. It presents each of the 31 classes of exhibits, and subdivisions within each class separately, with general comments on the overall quality of the exhibits, then lists and comments on prize winners. There is a 'Table alphabetique des matieres' pages 1427-1574 so it is possible to check by surname and then turn to the appropriate page for information on the award.

First edition of The Age

The first copy of the Melbourne newspaper The Age was 'printed by steam machinery within the walls of the Melbourne Crystal Palace' on the day the Melbourne Exhibition opened. See The Age, Tuesday 17 October 1854, page 4.

State Library Victoria

Note - we have just upgraded our Library catalogue and are updating some links on our guides.

As we do this some catalogue links may not resolve correctly.