Displaying Edinburgh in 1886: the International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art
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Smith, George Wilson
The International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art held in Edinburgh in 1886 was the first universal international exhibition to be staged in Scotland. This thesis examines the event as a reflection of the character and social structure of its host city and as an example of the voluntary organisation of an ambitious project. The background to the Exhibition is located in the progress of large-scale exhibitions in Victorian Britain, in competition between cities, and in Edinburgh’s distinction as an administrative and cultural centre and a national capital. The Exhibition’s organisers are situated within the city’s networks of power and influence and its circles of commerce, industry and municipal government. The space created to host the Exhibition is examined as an ideal depiction of Edinburgh as both a modern and a historic city. The origins of the exhibitors populating the Exhibition space are analysed, and their motivations and exhibiting strategies are scrutinised. The composition of the visitors to the Exhibition is considered and the development of the event as a venue for popular entertainment and spectacular display is discussed. In conclusion the chaotic aftermath of the project is examined, together with its influence on subsequent British exhibitions.