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Art – Research – Library: Shaping Maps of Knowledge

Art – recherche – bibliothèque : modeler le paysage de la connaissance
Jan Simane
p. 203-210


Soon after art history was established as an academic discipline in its own right in the later nineteenth century, the first art libraries were founded to support both education and research. Focusing on libraries outside of a university or museum context, this paper shows how research methods and library concepts converged and diverged. The years after 1900 and prior to World War I, were particularly rich in terms of disputes over the principles of library organization, shelf ordering systems, and appropriate classification for art literature. Furthermore, Aby Warburg contemporaneously conceived his individual library concept based on the insight that ordering literature – in a highly unconventional manner – and gaining knowledge are closely interrelated. All in all, art history and art libraries were subjected to the same dynamics of conceptual development in these decades, in contrast to later times. The question of whether and how modern data technology correlates with the old models of ordering knowledge is briefly discussed at the end.

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Full text document will be published online on June 2017.

First lines

Among the humanities, art history is one of the youngest academic disciplines. Its establishment in the university education system started in Germany around the mid-nineteenth century, and by the 1870s, when the first chairs were instituted at universities such as Leipzig, Berlin and Vienna, it was finally acknowledged as a fully-fledged discipline. Although the historical perspective of art, artists, styles, and artistic developments had a long tradition, dating back to the Early Modern period, art history was not considered a “science” before scholars such as Franz Kugler and Carl Schnaase started to underlay their art-historical studies with discipline-specific methodological and theoretical principles. Their intention was on the one hand to equate art history with the natural sciences by applying more stringent research methods, and on the other to concede an epistemic quality to art history by exploring it as an integral part of general or “world” history. The first university...

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Bibliographical reference

Jan Simane, « Art – Research – Library: Shaping Maps of Knowledge », Perspective, 2 | 2016, 203-210.

Electronic reference

Jan Simane, « Art – Research – Library: Shaping Maps of Knowledge », Perspective [Online], 2 | 2016, Online since 30 June 2017, connection on 28 June 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/perspective.6978

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About the author

Jan Simane

Director of the Library, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

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