After 1851

The material and visual cultures of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham

‘The 10th of June, 1854, promises to be a day scarcely less memorable in the social history of the present age than was the 1st of May, 1851’ boasted the Chronicle on 10 June 1854, comparing the opening of the Crystal Palace, newly installed on the crown of Sydenham Hill, to that of the Great Exhibition. Many contemporary commentators deemed the Sydenham Palace’s contents superior, the building more spectacular and its educative potential much greater than its predecessor. Yet their predictions proved to be a little wide of the mark, and for a long time, studies of the Great Exhibition of 1851 have marginalised the Sydenham Palace. This collection of essays will look beyond the chronological confines of 1851 and address the significance of the Crystal Palace as a cultural site, image and structure well into the twentieth century, even after it was destroyed by fire in 1936.

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