Great Exhibition  

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"With this exhibition, the bourgeoisie of the world has erected in the modern Rome its Pantheon, where, with self-satisfied pride, it exhibits the gods which it has made for itself."--Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung (1850)

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The Great Exhibition, also known as the Crystal Palace Exhibition, was an international exhibition held in Hyde Park, London, from May 1 to October 15 1851 and the first in a series of World's Fair exhibitions of culture and industry that were to be a popular 19th century feature.

A special building, nicknamed The Crystal Palace, was designed by Joseph Paxton to house the show; an architecturally adventurous building based on Paxton's experience designing greenhouses, constructed from cast iron-frame components and glass, which was an enormous success. The massive glass house was 563 meters long by 138 meters wide, and went from plans to grand opening in just nine months. The building was later moved and re-erected in an enlarged form at Sydenham in south London, an area that was renamed Crystal Palace.

Six million people – equivalent to a third of the entire population of Great Britain – visited the Exhibition. The Great Exhibition made a surplus of £186,000 which was used to found the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum which were all built in the area to the south of the exhibition, nicknamed "Albertopolis", alongside the Imperial Institute.

The exhibition caused controversy at the time. Some conservatives feared that the mass of visitors might become a revolutionary mob, while radicals such as Karl Marx saw the exhibition as an emblem of the capitalist fetishism of commodities. Today the Great Exhibition has become a symbol of the Victorian Age, and its thick catalogue illustrated with steel engravings is a primary source for High Victorian design.

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