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‘Love of a crowd, a band, and “a gardens’’’: Music, Recreation, and Gardens at Nineteenth-Century International Exhibitions

June 6, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Australian Garden History Society presents

‘Love of a crowd, a band, and “a gardens’’’: Music, Recreation, and Gardens at Nineteenth-Century International Exhibitions

Winter online lecture by Sarah Kirby

International exhibitions were some of the most significant cultural events of the nineteenth century, drawing together displays from across the world that (supposedly) demonstrated the breadth of human achievement. These vast events, held in enormous buildings and filled with objects to dazzle the spectator had, from their inception, been designed to combine education, entertainment, and spectacle. While their educational aspects generally remained confined to the inside of the buildings, by the 1880s the gardens that surrounded them had become hives of entertainment. These outdoor spaces inherited the traditions of earlier European ‘pleasure gardens’, combining fountains, walkways, grottos, and spectacular lighting effects with a wide variety of refreshments and carnival amusements, including music. These gardens became, for many, the main drawcard of the exhibitions; as George Bernard Shaw declared in 1885, the success of International Exhibitions overall lay in the public’s ‘love of a crowd, a band, and “a gardens”’.

This talk explores the role of music and gardens in the experience of nineteenth-century international exhibitions, considering questions of passive and active experience, ‘rational recreation’ and ideas of public health and wellbeing, and popular vs. ‘high art’ music and entertainment. While it explores many exhibitions and their gardens across the British Empire, its particular focus is on the exhibitions held in Melbourne in 1880 and 1888, and the music heard in the Carlton Gardens that surround the Royal Exhibition Building.

Sarah Kirby is a musicologist and cultural historian, specialising in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Australian and British music history. She is a recent doctoral graduate of the University of Melbourne, where her thesis explored music at international exhibitions in the British Empire. She is currently working as the Grainger Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Grainger Museum. Sarah has published widely on music in Britain and Australia, colonialism, women in music, and music in museums, and her first monograph, ‘Exhibitions, Music and the British Empire’, is out now with Boydell & Brewer. She lectures in undergraduate music history at the Melbourne Conservatorium and at the University of New England, is associated editor of the journal ‘Musicology Australia’, and was the 2022 Nancy Keesing Fellow at the State Library of NSW.


DATE:              Tuesday 6 June 2023
TIME:               6.00 start – log in from 5.45
LOCATION      A Zoom link will be provided with reminder email before the session.
COST:              $10 members AGHS, $10 Friends RBG, $15 non-members

BOOKINGS:     https://www.trybooking.com/CHCCX
ENQUIRIES:     LYNDA ENTWISLE – Mobile: 0466 925 370


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