VII.1 Mondothèque. Multimedia Desk in a Global Internet

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Paul Marie Ghislain Otlet

Paul Marie Ghislain Otlet (1868-1944), a Belgian lawyer and internationalist, worked his whole life on the institutionalization of knowledge production and dissemination. In 1895, he and Henri La Fontaine created the International Institute of Bibliography in Brussels to support the elaboration of a universal bibliographic catalogue and related collections of images and documentary files. In 1910, they brought together collections in the Palais Mondial in Brussels with the idea to develop it into a global knowledge institution, comprising a World Museum, World Library, World University, etc.: The Mundaneum. Otlet envisioned Mundaneums in various cities over the world and a large network of local, regional, and national centers of knowledge production: Species Mundaneum. The Mondothèque was one link in this hierarchical network. Otlet designed the Mondothèque as a work station to be used at home to engage people in the production and dissemination of knowledge. It contained reference works, catalogues, multimedia substitutes for traditional books such as microfilm, TV, radio, and finally a new form of encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia Universalis Mundaneum comprising reproducible “atlases” involving charts, posters, and other illustrative materials. The Mondothèque may be thought of as an analogue representation of today's ubiquitous computer-based digital functionalities.


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Rayward, W. Boyd. 1975. The Universe of Information: The Work of Paul Otlet for Documentation and International Organisation. Moscow: FID –VINITI.

Rayward, W. Boyd. 1990. “International Organisation and Dissemination of Knowledge.” In Selected Essays of Paul Otlet, translated and edited with an introduction by W. Boyd Rayward, FID 684. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Heuvel, Charles van den. 2008. “Building Society, Constructing Knowledge, Weaving the Web: Otlet’s Visualizations of a Global Information Society and His Concept of a Universal Civilization.” In European Modernism and the Information Society, edited by W. B. Rayward, 127-153. London: Ashgate Publishers.

Heuvel, Charles van den. 2009. “Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web in Research from a Historical Perspective: The Designs of Paul Otlet (1868-1944) for Telecommunication and Machine Readable Documentation to Organize Research and Society.” Knowledge Organization 36 (4): 214-226.

Otlet, Paul. 1936. Mondothèque: A Multi-Media Work Station Connected to a Paper Internet. Courtesy of Mundaneum, Mons, Belgium. In “7th Iteration (2011): Science Maps as Visual Interfaces to Digital Libraries,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Michael J. Stamper.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.