State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 56 Spring 1995



Like similar events today, nineteenth-century exhibitions generated their own mountain of administrative and promotional paperwork.
Probably the most comprehensive example of ephemera relating to an exhibition held by the Library is the Sydney International Exhibition 1879: forms of entry etc, (Sydney, The Exhibition, 1879). This bound collection of 41 items includes a letter requesting assistance and co-operation in making the Exhibition a success, along with circulars distributed by various committees inviting participation. More mundane paperwork associated with the handling and monitoring of incoming material includes: application for space forms; an example of a pre-addressed label to be attached to incoming packages; entry certificates for various classes (one to accompany each exhibit); receipt forms for goods received; and ruled ledger pages designed to record details of entries in the various classes. There are also several examples from the Ticket Admission Department, such as an application for exhibitor's ticket, applications for workmen's tickets, plus forms to record the number of admissions at various gates, and monies collected.
Exhibition tickets are also held, ranging from the utilitarian, albeit decoratively printed, square of cardboard, such as the season ticket

From The Exhibition visitors' daily programme 2 February 1881, p. 5

for the Melbourne Exhibition of 1854, to the miniature booklet with the gold embossed cover issued as the season ticket for the 1861 Victorian Exhibition.
Examples of certificates and medals awarded to successful exhibitors are held in the Library's Picture Collection. One such exhibitor was Madeline M. R. Lewellin who, according to the certificate, was awarded a gold medal for oil painting at the Intercolonial Juvenile Industrial Exhibition Melbourne of 1879–80. Other items include a medal from the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition 1866–67 designed by the eminent sculptor Charles Summers, also responsible for the Burke and Wills memorial, and a glass tumbler engraved with the words “Melbourne Exhibition Nellie Dove 1880–1”.
The T. A. Reynolds papers (MS 8202, box 965/4 (a)), held in the Australian Manuscripts Collection, includes a one page Programme ceremonial entertainments to inaugurate the Centennial International Exhibition Melbourne 1888. Along with the accompanying invitations, tickets, menues and programmes, we can begin to glimpse something of the flurry of social activities, such as dinners, banquets, concerts and balls, that coincided with the opening of the Exhibition.
Daily programmes kept the public informed of exhibition activities. The Exhibition visitors' daily programme (Melbourne, W. G. Mitchell, 1880-) issued for the 1880 Melbourne Exhibition was an eight-page publication, similar in design to a tabloid newspaper, and was “circulated amongst the principal hotels, restaurants and boarding establishments in Melbourne and suburbs, and at the Exhibition in thousands daily”. Judging by the extensive advertising within its pages, local merchants appreciated the scope of the audience. Each issue provided out of town visitors with information on Melbourne's suburbs, places worth visiting, and postal services, along with a full round-up of the day's highlights at the Exhibition, including musical performances.
The Library's Moir Collection holds a bound volume comprising some 65 issues of the Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne 1888–89: official daily programme. The four-page programmes, smaller in format than those of 1880, span the period 2 August 1888 through to 30 January 1889,

From The Exhibition visitors' daily programme 2 February 1881, p. 5

and were edited by Garnet Walch. Information is confined to daily events at the Exhibition, with a particular emphasis on the concert performances given by the Centennial Orchestra, conducted by Frederic H. Cowen. Visitors to the exhibition on 14 January 1889,

From Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne 1888–89: official daily programme 11 January 1889

for example, would have been treated to free entertainment for most of the afternoon and evening: at 2 p.m. an organ recital, 2.30 p.m. variety entertainment, 4 p.m. concert in the German court, 8 p.m. orchestral concert by the Centennial Orchestra, 9 p.m. concert in the German court, 8 to 10 p.m. grand illuminations at The Lake, 9.45 p.m. Sylvio the Innovator and Mdlle Franzini, champion bicycliste.
Ephemera, by definition, has a limited life span. Intended to last only the life of the event, very little nineteenth-century exhibition ephemera survived to find its way into the Library's collections. What has, thankfully, provides some indication of the day-to-day workings of these major cultural events.
Jennifer Gissing
Librarian in the Research Section of
the La Trobe Library