Google Teams with Mundaneum, a Museum that Paved the Way for the Internet

March 13, 2012
By: Carrie Schmelkin

It appears that one museum in Mons, Belgium, was in fact a few decades ahead of its time as it set out to create a giant, library-style catalogue with millions of entries – something that is quite similar to today’s modern search engines and Wikipedia.

Mundaneum, which was set up as a 19th-Century paper equivalent of the U.S. Internet, was created by Belgians Paul Otlet, the 1913 Nobel (News - Alert) peace laureate, and Henri La Fontaine, who envisioned developing a paper archival system of the world's information and organizing it in a system referred to as universal Decimal Classification. The two started delineating links to books, newspaper and magazine articles, pictures and other documents from libraries and archives around the world. The collection quickly expanded to 16 million cards, and Otlet and La Fontaine started envisioning a “city of knowledge.”

Ironically enough, Mundaneum has recently found a new friend in Google (News - Alert), what one could call a modern day Mundaneum. Today, Google announced that it has linked with Mundaneum to honor and promote the importance of European pioneers in terms of computing and the Internet.

"For Google, this mission sounds eerily and pleasantly familiar,” said Google Belgium's Chief Thierry Geerts in an article.

As part of the new partnership, Google will partner an upcoming exhibition on the Mundaneum, titled "Knowledge One Click Away," taking place at Mundaneum headquarters in Mons. Google also announced its plans to sponsor a traveling exhibit on the Mundaneum, as well as a series of talks on Internet issues, at the museum and the university. The partnership benefits Mundaneum as the museum can leverage Google’s social networking service Google Plus to spread the word about its offerings.

The partnership supports Google’s larger campaign strategy to demonstrate its acceptance of European culture, at a time when the Internet empire is being investigated by several regulators about a variety of matters, according to a New York Times article. Currently, the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, is brining under the light the dominance of Google’s search engine. Moreover, national regulators are investigating changes in the company’s privacy policy.

But, according to Google officials, the partnership simply allows Google to partner for a museum who helped pave the way for the World Wide Web.

“The partnership with Google gives us a great opportunity to spread knowledge of this remarkable Belgian project throughout the world,” Jean-Paul Deplus, director of the museum, the Mundaneum, said in remarks prepared for a news conference Tuesday.

Edited by Tammy Wolf