5th May 1938 - The Empire Exhibition

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5th May 1938 - The Empire Exhibition

On this day 5th May 1938 the Empire Exhibition was opened to the public. 

Showcasing modernist architecture the Exhibition attracted approximately 13 million people over its six month duration. 

The number of visitors was almost triple Scotland’s population at the time and season tickets were popular as many revisited the Exhibition multiple times over the summer. The 1 millionth visitor was recorded on May 14. Glasgow known as ‘the workshop of the empire’ was a natural choice of venue for the Empire Exhibition of 1938, having hosted similar exhibitions in 1888 and 1901. However, by 1938 Glasgow was struggling through a deep industrial depression. The Empire Exhibition was the perfect opportunity to bring attention to and promote Scottish industry. Most of the buildings constructed were of a temporary nature; however, the Palace of Art was built as a permanent structure and is the only remaining mark of the Exhibition. The 1938 exhibition proved to the last of its kind as the world changed so drastically after the Second World War. 

In 2007, the Digital Design Studio at the Glasgow School of Art was involved in creating a 3D visualisation of over 100 buildings of the British Empire Exhibition of 1938. The 3D model and interactive map are an excellent resource for those interested in the Empire Exhibition.

Glasgow City Archives holds several sources about the event, which can be viewed in our searchroom on level 5 of the Mitchell Library.



TD 1196.1.2. Souvenir Fun Park 5.jpg
​TD1196/1/2 A Souvenir of the Empire Exhibition 1938 - Souvenir book with photographs showcasing the different areas of the Exhibition including The Amusement Park, which was ‘Bellahous-Fun.’
TD1196.1.5 Map of Exhibition 2.jpg
​TD1196/1/5 Empire Exhibition Map - Map showing the layout of the exhibition. Modes of transportation to the exhibition are shown on the map. 

TD1601.6 Glasgow Herald 5.jpg
​TD1601/6 The Glasgow Herald Souvenir Supplement - A souvenir supplement edition of The Glasgow Herald published 28 April 1938 celebrating the Empire Exhibition. Tait’s Tower can be seen in the background of the art deco cover.  The issue featured information about the exhibition but also adverts promoting Scottish businesses such as McVitie’s.

TD655.10.2.2 Palace of Industries 2.jpg
​TD655/10/2/2 Guthrie and Wells Palace of Industries - Perspective sketch dated 17 February 1937 featuring the proposed frontage of the Palace of Industries building. The Palace of Industries was the Exhibition’s second largest building. 
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