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Visual Order to Organizing Collections

Circles Of Knowledge

In the Renaissance, the sphere and the circle were viewed as perfect forms. The medical school in Padua, in initiating one of the earliest and most famous botanical gardens, chose a circular arrangement. Plants from the Americas were transplanted there.

Reading rooms imitating the ancient Roman Pantheon dome became an engineering feat and architectural possibility in the mid-nineteenth century.

In 1857 Sidney Smirke worked with Anthony Panizzi to construct the reading room within the courtyard of the British Museum. Ten years later in 1867, Henri Labrouste, having Floor plan of the British Museum reading room (1857). Commissioned in 1857, the main reading room at the British Museum was designed by Sidney Smirke and built in the Great Court of the museum. © CORBIS studied the London feat and applying the analogy of culture to horticulture, which he already had applied in the tree decoration of the bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, created the main reading room of the Bibliothèque nationale, Richelieu.

Readers in either room were encircled by topically organized reference books; they literally might walk around the circle of knowledge. This central wheel of essential knowledge has spokes leading out to the stacks of more detailed books retrieved by librarians at the reader's request desk.

The United States imitated both great circular reading rooms in the 1886–1897 construction of the Main Reading Room of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The figures painted on the dome depict a chronological sequence of civilizations contributing to the collection: Egypt, Judea, Greece, Rome, Islam, Middle Ages, Italy, Germany, Spain, England, France, America. Statues of eight personifications of disciplines and of two great male achievers for each discipline encircle readers seeking knowledge of Philosophy, Art, History, Commerce, Religion, Science, Law, and Poetry.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Verbena Family (Verbenaceae) - Tropical Hardwoods In The Verbena Family to WelfarismVisual Order to Organizing Collections - Hunting For Precious Objects, Horticulture And Culture, Cabinets Of Curiosity, "portraits" Of Authors