This asset illustrates the destruction of the Garden Palace, which was built to house the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879-80 - constructed almost entirely of wood, the building dominated the landscape from its location just behind what is now Sydney's Conservatorium of Music in the Botanical Gardens; the building's central dome, which had a diameter of more than 30 metres, was surrounded by three turreted wings; the gates survived the fire and have been preserved in commemoration of the building; they can still be found between the Botanical Gardens and Macquarie Street.
It depicts the blaze that completely engulfed the Garden Palace - after the Exhibition closed, the building served as a museum, and many groups and institutions were offered space there; invaluable records, exhibits and collections were destroyed in the fire, including every publicly owned artefact of the Indigenous peoples of Sydney, part of the Australian Museum's Anthropological collections, which had been placed on display in 1879 in the Exhibition's Ethnographic Court.
It suggests the significance of the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition - the Exhibition allowed Australia to present itself as a successful nation on the international stage, although it occurred in pre-Federation days; it aimed to both educate and entertain, and included exhibits showcasing Australia's cultural and industrial achievements, as well as imported artworks and machinery; the Exhibition ran for seven months (from September 1879 to April 1880) and attracted more than 1 million visitors.
It shows the destruction of a building designed by the Colonial Architect, Scottish-born James Johnstone Barnet (1827-1904) - Barnet held the office for 25 years and was responsible for designing and building hundreds of buildings in Sydney, contributing greatly to its maturation from a Georgian to a Victorian city; he was known for promoting the use of new technologies such as electricity (he used English-imported electric lights to enable round-the-clock construction of the Garden Palace), concrete, and fire-retardant materials.
It illustrates the results that can be obtained through the printing process of chromolithography - developed and commercialised by Frenchman Godefroy Engelmann (1788-1839) in the 1830s, chromolithography was the first true multicolour printing method (before its advent, prints had to be coloured by hand); it was based on the same principles as lithography (printing from an etched metal or stone plate), but used different stones for each colour (up to 15 for one print).
It is the work of the Sydney-based Gibbs, Shallard and Company, a prolific publisher that produced publications ranging from maps to music - ironically, in 1890 the firm's own premises were also completely razed by one of Sydney's worst fires, which consumed a whole city block near the present-day location of Martin Place.