Scientific patterns at the Festival of Britain

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An ashtray designed around the crystal structure of Pentaerythritol

The work of the Festival Pattern Group was one of the most interesting aspects of design and science at the Festival of Britain. This group worked with designs derived from crystals structure diagrams, the maps drawn by scientists when recording the arrangement of atoms in a particular material. The repeats in the diagrams worked in a similar way to those in a fabric or wallpaper pattern and a group of designers worked to adapt these designs to their own particular products.… Read the rest

1851 The Great Exhibition Award Medals

The Prize medal for the Great Exhibition of 1851 is one of the finest Victorian medals, a great design by two members of the Wyon family from the quintessential Victorian event. The Great Exhibition was a huge display  of the Industry of All Nations, it showed Victorian Britain at the heart of an unparalleled Empire. A new type of spectacular exhibition that reflected the nations status, a monarch and consort in high relief on a medal that expresses so much of their reign.… Read the rest

Brussels 1958 – The Atomium

The Atomium in Brussels is the most wonderful relic from an Exhibition anywhere in the World. At least that is what I think, and my visit to it in the summer of 2017 didn’t disappoint or change my opinion. The Eiffel Tower is of course bigger, more iconic more famous and more important, but for all those reasons it is not surprising, it is a perfectly acclimatised part of the city and completely at home there.… Read the rest

The Pavilion of His Majesty’s Government, Wembley 1924

The British Empire Exhibition held at Wembley in 1924, and again in 1925, was the last large scale exhibition that came close to resembling a Universelle Exhibition or ‘great exhibition’ to be held in London. An exhibition that was first proposed in the early years of the century it had the specific focus of the British Empire, in particular the benefits that the Empire brought to the countries that were a part of it, as well as to display the extent and magnificence of the Empire to the millions of visitors.… Read the rest

Paris 1900 and the Porte Monumentale

There can be few Exhibitions as famous as the one held in Paris in 1900. By the end of the nineteenth century France, and Paris in particular, had become preeminent in the world of Great Exhibitions, this was the cities fifth large-scale exhibition since 1855. The huge efforts made by the city and the success achieved in 1889 led to Paris quickly staking a claim to an Exposition Universelle in 1900.… Read the rest

Stockholm 1930

This is one of my favourite exhibition medals, a small example from the exhibition in Stockholm, 1930. Just 52mm x 35mm it depicts a naked athletic male figure climbing some steps and holding a leafy branch aloft. Importantly he is climbing the stairs but has not yet reached the top, it is simple in concept and promises of achievements yet to some. Rejecting the beaux-arts elaboration of traditional medals, we don’t see and elaborate surface with a depiction of industry shaking hands with the arts and a winged figure looking proudly on.… Read the rest

Brussels International Exhibition 1897 Medal by Julius Lagae

The Brussels Exhibition Medal, 1897, was designed by Julius Lagae (1862-1931). The medal featured in the Studio-Talk section of The Studio magazine in August 1898. A short article told the reader that the artist had also been working on a monument erected in memory of the poet, Ledeganck, author of a poem on the three Flemish towns, Antwerp, Bruges and Gent. The base of the memorial being adorned with low-relief figures personifying the three towns.… Read the rest

1889 Paris Exposition Universelle … The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower … possibly the most famous monument in existence? The best known signifier of any City anywhere? Regularly claimed to be the most visited paid-for tourist attraction in the world with seven million visitors a year. The tower needs no introduction from me, and as an aspect of Exhibition History it is unrivalled by anything else ever created for any exhibition event ever. It gave birth to numerous imitators, not least the famously over ambitious ‘Watkins Tower’ that never materialised in West London.… Read the rest

Groundbreaking 3-dimensional plastic souvenir by Wilmot Breeden Ltd for the Festival of Britain

There were many different souvenirs produced for the Festival of Britain, many of them are lovely, some surprising, some uninspiring but few are as nice as this small box by Wilmot Breeden Ltd of Birmingham. 80mm wide and 45 high it is a small lidded box with no obvious specific function, the base is a marbled green/grey colour and the top clear plastic with a three dimensional moulding of the Festival symbol within a wavy edged border.… Read the rest

E. Oudine’s medal for the Exposition Universelle Internationale, Paris 1878

This is one of the finest 19th century exhibition medals, made for the Exposition Universelle in Paris 1878 to a design by Eugene Oudine (1810 – 1887). Oudine was one of France’s finest sculptors who specialised in the then highly regarded field of medals. Throughout his long and successful career he produced many fine historic medals marking the turbulent and ever-eventful history of nineteenth century France.


The Paris exhibition of 1878 was one of the largest nineteenth century exhibitions, it was visited by a remarkable 16 million people and covered 185 acres despite which it made an even more remarkable loss of 28 million francs.… Read the rest