27/11/2022

1897, Brussels BE – Exposition Internationale de Bruxelles

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1897 Brussels

Name:Exposition Internationale de Bruxelles
Dates:10 May – 8 Nov 1897, planned originally to open on 24 Apr.
Days:60 days
Venue:Cinquantenaire Parks with a colonial section at Tervuren
132 ha (326 acres)
Theme:Modern Life
Exhibitors:10,668 – 28 countries and 3 colonies
Awards:
Visitors:6,000,000 to main site and 1,800,000 to Tervuren – entry was 20 BFr
Legacy:Costs of 5.7 BFr and Revenues of 7.0m BFr
1987 Bruseels Poster

Brussels had waited its ‘turn’ and watched the port Antwerp run two international events 1885 and 1894. Yet it was the Belgian capital and now was at the centre of a rail network with an internal tram system.

Count Adren d’Oultremont was the event’s chairman. The buildings’ design was by leading Belgian Art Nouveau proponents Henry van de Velde, Paul Hankar, Gédéon Bordiau, and Gustave Serrurier-Bovy.

1897 venue

The popular feature Vieux-Bruxelles (also called Bruxelles-Kermesse) was a miniature city and theme park
evoking Brussels around 1830.

Nineteen European nations took part, Congo and Liberia from Africa, Persia and Tukey from the Middle
East, the USA and Chile, the Dominican Republic and Paraguay from South America.

1897 Main building

The main hall was designed by Georges Hobé as a wooden Art Nouveau structure, using an African tree, Bilinga wood, to evoke the forest by displaying ethnographic objects and stuffed animals.

There were panorams created of the Alps and of Cairo. Notable exhibits were: balloon journeys, Marconi’s wireless telegraph, a giant cinematograph showing a twenty-minute film, incubators for babies… A major international cycling race drew twenty thousand spectators.

Tervuren Salon des Grandes Cultures

The two sites, Cinquantenaire Parks and Tervuren were connected by a tram service.

The Tervuren section was accessed via a Salon d’Honneur with fine art exhibits, this led to the Palace of the Colonies. Another passage held a working greenhouse and an unusual aquarium, with stuffed fish preserved in formaldehyde. This ‘tour’ ended with a display called the Salon des Grandes Cultures that contained displays of colonial coffee, cocoa and tobacco.

Postcard from the Congolese village

Under the banner of ethnology there was a Congolese village with 267 Africans living there during the period of the fair. This proved to be a huge attraction. Perhaps most underlining the ‘human zoo’ nature of the exhibit was that the organisers erected a sign that said, ‘Do not feed the blacks. They are already being fed’. The Congolese slept above stables, seven of them died as a result of their living conditions.

Unlike other European empires, the Congo Free State was established as the personal possession of King Leopold II of Belgium, not the state. He owned it from 1885-1908 having convinced other European powers that he was engaged in humanitarian work, but his administration proved brutal in its plunder of the natural resources. It has been estimated that 20% of its population was lost directly or indirectly under his rule.

1897 poster

The exhibition’s success was responsible for a permanent establishment, the Royal Museum for Central Africa in 1898.

Forward to 1897, Stockholm SE – General Art and Industrial Exposition of Stockholm
Back to 1897, Brisbane AU – Queensland International Exhibition
Back to Getting Noticed – Back to VOLUME II Index – Back to bobdenton.com home

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