Defining nation: Ireland at the Great Exhibition of 1851

Louise Purbrick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


This book chapter examines exhibits sent for display within the Crystal Palace from Belfast and Dublin: sculpture, furniture and textiles. Whilst studies of the Great Exhibition abound, most are based on interpretations of its overall effect with far less attention paid to its material culture. Here, Purbrick reads the detail of catalogue entries and exhibition guides that describe the Irish exhibits. While these objects made of plaster, wood or linen and defined as artistic or industrial represented divergent versions of nineteenth century Irish national identity, Ireland’s status as a region was reproduced through the Great Exhibition’s spatial order. Thus, Purbrick reflects upon one of the contradictions of colonialism: to be regarded as a nation but awarded the status of a region. A Visiting Fellowship at Yale Center for British Art enabled her to carry out the research for this article, an extension of her long-standing interest in the culture of industry in the Crystal Palace.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritain, the Empire, and the world at the Great Exhibition of 1851
EditorsAuerbach Jeffrey, Hoffenberg Peter
Place of PublicationAldershot
Number of pages30
ISBN (Print)9780754662419
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


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