1851 – Great Exhibition Opens
On this day in dinosaurs, the seeds for the first public bout of dino-mania began. The famous “Crystal Palace Park” dinosaurs were not unveiled until 1854, when the remains of the Great Exhibition were moved to the dinosaurs’ current location in Sydenham, South London. But in 1851, the Great Exhibition opened to much fanfare and the repercussions of this event are significant and varied.
The most obvious celebratory event in relation to the Exhibition–in terms of dinosauriana anyway–is the creation of the Crystal Palace dinosaur models several years later. These dinosaurs, dreamed into existence by Sir Richard Owen and sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, are the public’s first view of dinosaurs as life-size animals and display pieces. But the Great Exhibition itself provided several important concepts to the history of dinosaur science.
First, the Exhibition was largely concentrated on showing off the best science and technology of the day. It was one of the first large-scale, public displays of progressive thought–using ingenuity to solve the problems of the modern era (and the riddles posed by previous epochs as well).
In addition to the cultural ideas presented at the Exhibition (and the tangible solutions to them), the event also served as a great fundraiser. The money raised during the Exhibition was dedicated toward massive building and research projects, including London’s Natural History Museum.