Contents page from the 'Official Catalogue of the Great Exhibition', 1851.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The Great Exhibition was conceived by Prince Albert (1819-1861) to showcase Britain's industrial and technological achievements. The Crystal Palace was purpose-built to house the 30,000 exhibits. It was the first large-scale prefabricated ferrovitreous (iron and glas) structure, and was designed by Joseph Paxton (1801-1865). The prefabricated design made the construction, and later dismantling, easier and quicker. From 1 May to 15 October, a total of six million visitors came to the exhibition at Hyde Park in London. The profits from the event were used to establish the South Kensington museums and the Royal Albert Hall.