On a sunny sunday afternoon Femke, Nicolas, Laurence and I visited the Mundaneum in Mons; the museum which hosts the index to the collections of Paul Otlet.
This years Argos Festival screened the documentary L’homme qui voulait classer le monde by Francoise Lavie. The film portrays Belgium pacifist, documentalist, internationalist and feminist Paul Otlet, who was born in Brussels in 1868, and died in 1943. He was the first to introduce the term Documentation, and his work is described as ‘internet on paper’. Some of his writing looks a lot like early hypertext. Because the website of the Mundaneum is rather limited in giving information, a trip to the museum seemed like a good idea.
To our amazament, there was no ‘interface’ of any kind to disclose the rows of cards, to scetch the historical context and origins of the collection, or even to mention what kind of museum the visitor is entering. No explanation, guided tour, catalogue, legenda: nothing. And: no trace of the objects in the collection.
Apart from the original index on cards, which one is not allowed to touch, an accessible database of the collection does not exist and has never been developed any further than a dummy page on Mundaneums’ website. The ‘Munda.web’ computer space in the building is nothing more than a basic cyber cafe.
Nicolas left his phonenumber to make an appointment with somebody responsible for the Mundaneum’s collection for a second visit. A brave attempt to conquer the deep psyche of Wallonien bureaucracy.
To be continued …. !