1906 International Exhibition

Entertainment and exhibits

Although the Exhibition’s declared its main purpose was educational, it was recognised that if it was to be successful, visitors must also be entertained and amused. As G.S. Munro, general manager of the Exhibition, noted, he took advice from the managers of the 1880 Melbourne Exhibition when planning public entertainments. "Their advice was to "… never attempt … to run an Exhibition on its educational merit; instead, provide the public with plenty of good, healthy amusements … they will come to be amused, and you must take your chance of them remaining to be educated".1

Nevertheless, many of the entertainments on offer contained a substantial educational element. This was particularly true of the British art exhibit, the first major non-colonial art exhibition ever seen in New Zealand, which attracted over half a million visitors. The musical entertainments were also expected to educate the listening public, including as they did concerts by New Zealand’s first professional orchestra, with programmes of serious classical music, organ recitals and chamber music. Lighter offerings came from pipe and brass bands, with the British brass band Besses o’th’Barn proving especially popular.

The Natural History exhibits provided an entertaining yet educational, zoo-like atmosphere for visitors. The educational theme was also reinforced with the inclusion of a model Māori Pa. This gave the predominantly Pakeha visiting public a chance to see and experience various aspects of Māori culture, though this exhibit also featured entertainment and amusements too.

Pure entertainment was provided by the side-shows, rides, slot-machines and amusements of Wonderland. These "non-educational" activities were similarly popular, also attracting about half a million patrons.


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  • [1] The Press, 15 April 1907, page 8