The Google Doodle today was labelled Mundaneum and I couldn’t quite remember what it was. That’s been happening a lot lately. I guess I need more RAM? Anyhow I clicked on it and there it was on Wikipedia, in all its glory.
The Mundaneum – a paper version of the world wide web made in 1910 by two Belgian lawyers researching documentation science.
Everything was cross referenced against everything else according to a numerical system called the Universal Decimal Classification so it should be possible to follow routes of research by going from one numerical reference to another. There’s a museum in Wallonia where one can view what remains of the Mundaneum – parts were lost during WW2 and other parts have been damaged by neglect.
Reading about it, I remembered why I recognised it. In 1982, when I first started working for the museum, a modern version was being launched called the SHIC classification system that had been designed especially for museum archivists. SHIC = Social History and Industrial Classification. Every social history item could be logged with a series of numbers. Say one had a photo of some Morris dancers. That counts as part of Community Life – 1 – subdivided to Cultural Traditions – 1.1 – but if the dance was part of a Mummer’s Play only performed at a solstice then it would fall under Custom and Belief and Calendar Customs which would give it a code of 1.116 AND/OR as Community Entertainment – 1.66 – and if the photo was part of a newsclipping then it would also fall under dessemination of information which would take it into a whole new category. For example, smelling salts should normally be classified to 2.7, but smelling salts in a small bottle obviously carried around by one particular individual should be classified to 3.72. A scrapbook about a coal mining disaster would be classified to 4.2121.81, but a scrapbook recording the life of one particular individual would be classified to 3.12. A pipe rack would be classified to 2.68, but a pipe would normally be classified to 3.63.
Not confusing at all! Obviously.
Then the personal computer revolution kicked off with searchable databases and the SHIC system fell into disuse. I rather regret that somewhere in my head there’s a whole bunch of bits and bytes where bunches of info from the system is stored, hard to get at but still present. Local topography – 1.92 – crop spraying – 4.13. I wonder why I can remember those when I often can’t remember a doctor’s appointment or to pick up a prescription.