The magnificent Royal Exhibition Building, on the south side of the new Melbourne Museum complex, was completed in 1880 for Melbourne’s first International Exhibition.
The first International Exhibition 1880 was a huge success, over eight months attracting more than one million people to the eight hectares of exhibitions.
The cultural, industrial and technological achievements of more than 30 nations were proudly displayed to a public thirsting for information and new ideas. The diverse range of exhibits included steam locomotives, fine china, silks and woollen textiles, lawn mowers, sewing machines, precious jewellery, paintings and statues, and decorative pottery. The
The second major event took place in 1888 when the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition was held to promote the centenary of European settlement in Australia 1788.
This exhibition was officially opened for six months and the attendance was just over two million, nearly double the population of Melbourne at the time. It still qualifies as the biggest event ever held in Melbourne, surpassing the 1956 Olympic Games.
Since then the building has hosted a wide variety of local, national and international events but the most important of these was the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament of Australia on 9 May 1901, by the Duke of Cornwall and York, the heir to the throne.
More than 10 000 guests were present, including politicians, naval and military officers, judges, consuls, mayors and clergy. The building was again the location for a special sitting of Parliament during the 2001 Centenary of Federation celebrations.
Today, the Royal Exhibition Building flourishes as one of the world’s oldest and largest exhibition pavilions, symbolising the great 19th century international exhibition movement.