The Grand Hall Of The Aetheric Society, 1899
The Aetheric Society had outgrown its original meeting hall by the late 1880s, but it took five years of construction before the new hall opened (not to the public, of course!) in 1896. At the time, the space reserved for the library was mockingly derided for being larger than could ever be filled, destined “to be as empty of books as the aether itself is empty of matter”, but the laughter rapidly died as collection after collection of works on art, science, engineering, and every other academic subject were purchased… or in some cases, purloined… from around the world.
In the foreground stands the Great Indexer, a customized Lovelace-Tesla Model LX. At the heart is a matrix of tens of thousands of micro-cards, each no larger than a snowflake, which can be fed through the system in response to criteria entered into the machine by the Master Archivist, upon request by a patron of suitable standing. This will locate any and all works in the library which fit the requested pattern, producing a small ribbon imprinted with the necessary codes.
Stretching down the center of the hall are globes of all the worlds where Mankind has trod, with locations of all colonies, friendly and hostile natives, and major aether-ports clearly marked. These globes are not fixed and static displays, but are designed so that changing borders, new discoveries, and so on can be placed rapidly, so that they are never more than a week out of date.