University Of Tasmania
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Van Diemen's Land and the Great Exhibition of 1851

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posted on 2023-11-02, 06:38 authored by M Roe
Imperial authorities questioned whether so distant Van Diemen's Land could participate in the ‘Great Exhibition' to be held at London's Crystal Palace in 1851, but as it transpired, the locals made a notable showing. Aspiring to display the positives of ‘his' colony, Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Denison was the driving force behind this participation, with Joseph Milligan his chief aide and members of the local Royal Society notably assisting. The range and types of exhibits were remarkable and fascinating. Contributions came from various local quarters, one of interest being an ex-convict with whom Denison had some political liaison, whereas, conversely, Denison's critics tended to abstain from involvement. Women played a role in contributing exhibition pieces, as did Aboriginal Tasmanians - Milligan no doubt crucial in orchestrating this. Denison was especially concerned to display Tasmanian timber, and other primary produce, but the thrust of the Exhibition was to celebrate human skills, and the contributions of manufactured goods and superior hand-crafted items conformed to that pattern. The world saw exhibits bespeaking an active, achieving society, and although the Vandiemonian contribution won modest notice in the British press, locals gained a share of the many awards granted to exhibitors. Not that the whole story was triumphant - some jealousies resulted and its difficulties and tensions also told of time and place


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Papers & Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania







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