The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 is an institution founded in 1850 to administer the international exhibition of 1851, officially called the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations. The Great Exhibition was held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park London, England. The enormous building was designed by Joseph Paxton for the Exhibition and construction was supervised by William Cubitt using a cast iron space frame for the glass panes, with wooden beams for flooring.
The exhibition was a great popular and financial success, and made a huge surplus of £186,000 (approximately £22m in today's money). An unusual decision was made to maintain the Royal Commission as a permanent administrative body to use the profits for charitable purposes. Its revised Charter charged the Commission with "increasing the means of industrial education and extending the influence of science and art upon productive industry".
The profit from the 1851 Exhibition was invested by The Commissioners who bought 86 acres (350,000 m2) of land in South Kensington that was developed as a centre of educational and cultural institutions, often known as "Albertopolis". These include:
- Imperial College
- Natural History Museum
- Royal Albert Hall
- Royal College of Art
- Royal College of Music
- Science Museum
- Victoria and Albert Museum
The Commission's headquarters are in Imperial College and since 1891 the role of the Commission has been to provide postgraduate scholarships for students to study in Britain and abroad, and former scholars include 13 Nobel Prize laureates.
The Commission currently has capital assets of over £76 million, with an annual charitable disbursement of over £2 million.
- Hobhouse, Hermione (2002). The Crystal Palace And the Great Exhibition: Science, Art And Productive Industry, the History of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-485-11575-8.