The Mundaneum


The brainchild of Belgian lawyers Paul Otlet and Henri LaFontaine, the Mundaneum was a physical information repository whose purpose was to collect all of the world’s knowledge on nearly 15 million 3 x 5” index cards organized according to the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) system devised by Otlet. The UDC is still in use in 150,000 international libraries and institutions. The Mundaneum offered a search and retrieval service where quierers could submit questions via mail or telegram. Otlet theorized and wrote extensively about the potential for paperless knowledge sharing and discovery including his concepts of “electric telescopes” and “radio telephotography.”

Perkowitz, Sidney. 2016. "The Internet Before the Internet: Paul Otlet's Mundaneum." JSTOR Daily (blog).

Photo Credit:
Photograph 1: Archiv Mundaneum, Mons
Photograph 2: Archiv Mundaneum, Mons