Friday, May 16, 2008

The Mundaneum

Many thanks to my colleague, Rosalie Day, for surfacing this gem about The Mundaneum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Mundaneum was created in 1910 out of the initiative of two Belgian lawyers. Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine aimed to gather together all the world's knowledge and classify it according to a system they developed called the Universal Decimal Classification. Otlet and La Fontaine organized an International Conference of International Associations which caused the creation of the Union of International Associations (UIA). Otlet regarded the project as the centerpiece of a new 'world city' - a centrepiece which eventually became an archive with more than 12 million index cards and documents. Some consider it a forerunner of the internet (or, perhaps more appropriately, of the Wikipedia) and Otlet himself had dreams that one day, somehow, all the information he collected could be accessed by people from the comfort of their own homes. The Mundaneum was originally housed at the Palais du Cinquantenaire in Brussels (Belgium). The Mundaneum has since been relocated to a converted 1930s department store.”

Rosalie’s interest was sparked by an article by Paul Collins on the Mundaneum in New Scientist. Paul has also recorded this gem on his blog:
“Index cards used to be information technology's killer app... literally. In the US, for instance, the War Department struggled with mountains of haphazard medical files until the newly touted method of card filing was adopted in 1887. Hundreds of clerks transcribed personnel records dating back to the Revolutionary War. Housed in Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC - the scene of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination a generation earlier – the initiative succeeded a little too well. Six years into the project, the combined weight of 30 million index cards led to information overload: three floors of the theatre collapsed, crushing 22 clerks to death.”

And you thought information overload was a new problem!

No comments: