King's College London
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Imperial designs: technology and empire in the 19th century

The Crystal Palace

View of the interior of the exhibition hall showing crowds of visitors gathering around exhibits.The East Nave, Foreign Department, looking from the south-west of the transept.This image of the ‘East Nave, Foreign Department, looking from the south-west of the transept’ gives a sense of how popular the Great Exhibition was (it received over six million visitors), with people milling around and admiring both the displays and the building.

Exhibitors hailed not only from Britain and its colonies, but also from a number of other countries and presented a hugely diverse range of works of industry, arts and raw materials. These included Chinese plant specimens, locks ‘which cannot be picked or opened by false keys’ from Paris, expensive jewels and daguerreotypes from the United States.

The ‘impression of almost limitless space’ conveyed by the interior is also evident in the image, though its black and white format does not unfortunately convey the colour scheme actually used internally, which employed the primary colours red, green and blue.

Also evident are the numerous roof girders supporting the glass roof and the exoskeletal supports of the building’s side and balcony areas. Grand looking drapes and curtains hang attractively from the structure.

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