The Sydney International Exhibition opened the doors of its main building the ‘Garden Palace’ on 17 September 1879 and closed them seven months later. Many figures in colonial Sydney talked of the success of the huge project but the 1,045,898 visitors that passed through its gates were perhaps the most eloquent testimony to its triumph.
The main feature of the Sydney exhibition, like the international ones that preceded it, was an ornate building, the ‘Garden Palace’, which was over 244 metres long and had a floor space of over 112,000 metres. This building, and a number of smaller ones, was erected in the grounds of the Sydney Domain where it dominated the Sydney skyline for three brief years before the ‘Garden Palace’ was destroyed by fire in 1882.
These photographs are significant to the Powerhouse museum because the ‘Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum’, as the Powerhouse was then known, had earmarked objects on display to be among its first acquisitions. In 1880 a committee started selecting specimens and many of these were housed in the Ceylon court in the Garden Palace building.
The destruction of the building and its contents in 1882 forced curator Joseph Maiden to send out letters to contributors asking for new items for the museum. The response was remarkably positive and just over a year later, on 15 December 1883, the Technological Museum, with 5000 objects, was opened to the public in the Agricultural building which had survived the previous year’s fire. The group of photographs associated with this album provide us with a unique insight into the short lived magnificence of the Garden Palace before it burned to the ground.
Powerhouse Museum Collection
General information about the Powerhouse Museum Collection is available atwww.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database