A BRA group enjoyed a visit to this exhibition on 14 March, guided by two very knowledgeable English-speaking members of the Central Library staff. The exhibition, housed in the dimly-lit chancel of the Prediger Kirche, provides insights into the history and intellectual development of Zurich. In 1629 the town’s citizens set up its first public library (Bürger Bibliothek) coupled with a museum (Kunstkammer). The latter contained an encyclopedic collection of artefacts, some of which can still be seen (coins, portraits, zoological, mineral, archaeological specimens, in addition to maps, scientific instruments and even furniture). This new institution was housed in the Wasserkirche, which was deconsecrated after the Reformation. The exhibition traces the history of this library/museum, which increased the renown of Zurich and made knowledge and learning more easily accessible to the (wealthier) citizens. Thanks to donations, the collections grew rapidly but as a result of increasing specialization, at the end of the 18th century the Kunstkammer was divided up between various learned societies and ultimately strengthened Zurich’s successful bid to host the Landesmuseum. The library, on the other hand, subsequently formed the original nucleus of the Zentralbibliothek collections.
The visit was followed by a stop at a nearby café for refreshments. The lively discussion showed that the members had enjoyed the opportunity to discover a facet of Zurich that they might otherwise well have missed.