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Showcase Britain

Britain at the Vienna World Exhibition 1873


Christina Baird

Showcase Britain explores the diverse aspects of British participation in the Vienna World Exhibition (Weltausstellung) of 1873. The exhibition covered a vast spectrum of human endeavour and achievement. The British involvement encompassed not only the national submission but also the British individuals who visited and contributed to the displays.

The book offers a snapshot of British aspirations and commerce at a singular point in history through the lens of the exhibition. The central theme is explored through various perspectives: the ceramic collections, the Fine Art collections, British connections with China, the act of collecting, the visitor experience, and the mobility and re-use of collections, with particular reference to the display from India. The British submission is compared and contrasted throughout with that of the government of Japan, a newcomer to international shows, whose collections presented a competitor to Britain’s and a focus for British acquisition and emulation. Finally, the exhibition is viewed in the wider context of international exhibitions held in London in the following decade.

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I would like to thank the generosity of the Marc Fitch Fund, who sponsored this publication, and the Scouloudi Foundation in association with the Institute of Historical Research, who sponsored the images.

Special mention should be given to the peer-reviewed journals that previously published some of this research and to their reviewers and editors, who have kindly agreed for this material to be reproduced in this publication. These include Professor Robin Simon FSA, Editor of the British Art Journal, and the editors of the Journal of the History of Collections and the Journal of Design History, both of which are published by Oxford University Press.

I would also like to express my gratitude to several individuals to whom I am indebted: Dr Laurel Plapp, Commissioning Editor at Peter Lang; my husband, marine scientist Dr Mark K. Prior, for graphic and editorial support. I am beholden to the many other individuals, too numerous to list, whose contributions are acknowledged in the footnotes and, of course, to those who donated images for illustrations, Stephen Burton of Hancocks, London and the views of Vienna, from a private collection leant anonymously.

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