Intercolonial and international exhibitions

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

Melbourne. Centennial International Exhibition 1888-89

This exhibition opened on 1 August 1888 and closed on 31 January 1889.

Online resources

Official record of the Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1888-1889
This catalogue includes:

  • catalogue of exhibits, pages 357-639 (Victorian Court, pages 586-634)
  • list of works of art not included in the general catalogue, pages 639-659
  • reports and awards of juries, pages 673-907
  • list of exhibitors at the first and second wool show, pages 908-910
  • awards of the Executive Commissioners, pages 911-1092
  • medals for services (i.e. officials), pages 1093-1108

Official guide to the picture galleries, and catalogue of fine arts

Account of the opening of the exhibition and description of exhibits in the Illustrated Australian News, 15 August 1888, page 154, page 155, page 156.

Photograph, German Beer Hall, Centennial International Exhibition, men seated drinking beer

[German Beer Hall, Centennial International Exhibition, 1888], H82.166/2

Identity photographs of exhibitors and contractors

The Melbourne Exhibition required lots of behind-the-scenes work by exhibitors and contractors. With so many people to keep track of, it was decided that photographic portraits should be taken, for identification purposes. The Library has two of the six surviving volumes of these photographs

The first volume held is the Album of security identity portraits of members of the Victorian Court, Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1888. The 544 photographs in this album have been digitised, and can be viewed online and downloaded. This catalogue search will take you to all of the images in the album if you’d like to browse through them. To search for an individual portrait, add a surname at the end of the words in this search box, then click ‘Search’. To find out which company an individual represented, click on their record, then click ‘Details’. (Note that Public Record Office Victoria also holds portraits of members of the Victorian Court, likely to be different to the images in this album. Read on for information about PROV's portrait album collection).

Photographs, three portraits, L Mushialla [i.e. Muscialli or Muschialli] to left, Mrs M Clarke in centre, A Hocking on right.

L Mushialla [i.e. Muscialli or Muschialli]H28190/6, Mrs M Clarke, H28190/350, A Hocking, H28190/43

The second album held by the Library is the Album of security identity portraits of members of the British Court, Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1888. The 397 photographs in this album can be viewed by appointment.

The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds four more albums of security portraits taken for the 1888 exhibition; part of their record series VPRS 840:

  • Commissioner's Staff; Contractors; Contractors Attendants; Contractors Attendants; Exhibitors Attendants; Fire Brigade; Press     
  • New South Wales Court; New Zealand Court; South Australia; Queensland Court; Exhibition Attendants
  • Victorian Court (continued); Fine Arts
  • German Exhibitors; German Court; Minor Courts; French Courts; American Court; Austrian Court

Search their collection for 'Photograph Albums of Individuals Associated with the 1888 International Exhibition Melbourne' (VPRS 840), then use the 'Search within this series' option to search for names of individuals. Some of images in the PROV's albums have been digitised and added to Flickr.

Paris Exposition Universelle 1889

This exhibition was held in Paris from 6 May to 6 November 1889. Victoria's participation in this exhibition was limited due to an economic depression. Wines formed a substantial proportion of the Victorian exhibits sent to the exhibition. Victorian winemaker Paul de Castella 'won one of only 7 Grand Prizes awarded at this exhibition'.

Resources at the Library

Catalogue illustré des beaux-arts 1789-1889
Catalogue of the 1889 Paris exhibition in French.
Chefs-d'oeuvre de l'Exposition universelle de Paris, 1889
English language guide to the  1889 Paris exhibition.

Paris universal exhibition: official catalogue of the British section.
Modern books looking back at the 1889 Paris Exhibition:

Eiffel's tower: and the World's Fair where Buffalo Bill beguiled Paris, the artists quarreled, and Thomas Edison became a count
Musical encounters at the 1889 Paris World's Fair

Views of the Victorian Court at the Paris Universal Exhibition, 1889:

A series of photographs published in the Illustrated London News. See 'The colony of Victoria', 14 September 1889, page 342+. Images can be found in the Illustrated London News Historical Archive database. Victorian residents who join the State Library can access the Illustrated London News Historical Archive from home. This database is also available at the Library.
Copies of images also held in the Library's Pictures Collection.

Online resources

Paris Universal Exhibition, 1889: a complete illustrated catalogue of paintings, drawings and sculpture in the British fine art section

Paris and its exhibition: "Pall Mall" popular guide

Australie en avant 1789-1889: Victoria en 1889
French language description of geographic, political and economic features of the colony of Victoria.

St George and the dragon

The statue St George and the dragon by Joseph Edgar Boehm was brought out from Europe and displayed at the Melbourne Exhibition. It is listed on page 647 of the Exhibition's Official record. It was purchased for £1000 and installed on the State Library's forecourt, where it stands today.

Photograph, statue of St. George on his horse, slaying the dragon, currently located in the forecourt of the State Library of Victoria

[Statuary in the forecourt of the State Library of Victoria], H2010.25/1

First electric tram

Page 302 of the Melbourne Exhibition's Official record indicates that 'an electric railway exhibited by Messrs. W.H. Masters and Co., was opened to the public on the 19th November 1888 [...] The site was at the Northern end of the gardens and ran parallel with Carlton Street'. After the exhibition the equipment was purchased by The Box Hill & Doncaster Tramway Co, Ltd. and used to set up the first electric tramway in Australia. Read more about it in the booklet Australia's first electric tram.

Photograph, Electric tramway running from Box Hill to Doncaster

[Electric tramway running from Box Hill to Doncaster], H9790