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The Imperial Institute was established in 1887 as a result of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 by the governments of the United Kingdom and several countries of the British Empire to promote research which would benefit the empire. Initially this was strongly biased towards scientific research that supported the industrial and commercial development of the dominions and colonies.
The Imperial Institute was from 1893 housed in a building on Exhibition Road, South Kensington. The building was designed by Thomas Edward Collcutt and built by John Mowlem and Co from 1887–1894; it was paid for by public subscription. Originally, it had three copper-roofed Renaissance-style towers, but a single 85-metre tower, Queen's Tower, is all that remains of the Imperial Institute after demolition in the 1950s and 1960s to make way for Imperial College.
1925 In accordance with the provisions of the Imperial Institute Act, 1925, which became operative on July 1st, the control of the administration and the management of the Imperial Institute was transferred on that date from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Parliamentary Secretary, Department of Overseas Trade, who became the responsible Minister under the Act. The amalgamation of the Imperial Mineral Resources Bureau with the Imperial Institute was also effected on July 1st.
The Commonwealth Institute Act of 1958 changed the name of the Institute to the Commonwealth Institute, and also changed its mission to education rather than research