4. MUNDANEUM MUSEUM
people geeks would place the beginning of the Internet somewhere in the 1960's with the development of the ARPANET communications network. Or they might say it came about in the 1980's when Tim Berners Lee created the hypertext concept. And of course there is always the self-proclaimed "creator of the Internet," Al Gore.
While all these points in time are valid landmarks in the history of the world wide web, there existed a pioneer way back in 1934 who may have created the real precursor of the web. A little known museum tucked away in Mons, Belgium tells the story of an early attempt at organizing the worlds' information. A kind of Google or Wikipedia 1.0 if you will.
Belgian information scientist Paul Otlet was fascinated with anything having to do with books and libraries. This knowledge obsession led him to dream up a plan for a global network of "electric telescopes" (computers) called the Mundaneum that would let people search and browse through all the planet's documents, images, audio and video. Sound familiar?
Though the idea was grandiose for the time, Otlet set his mind to somehow develop this near-impossible vision with the technology of the day - paper. He collected data on every book ever published, along with an overflowing collection of magazine articles, photographs, posters and pamphlets. Then, using a low-tech database made out of more than 12 million 3 by 5 index cards, Otlet began cataloging all human knowledge.
After being almost completely destroyed by the Nazis, and languishing in an abandoned office in Brussells, Otlet's Mundaneum archive and proto-computer machinery have been resurrected at the Mundaneum Museum.
Jetting There: Mons is a very small town near the French border of Belgium in the province of Hainaut. The closest airport is Brussels which is about 65km away.
Driving There: Get on highway E19 in the direction Mons/Paris. But according to Trabel.com, "in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, the city of 'Mons' is indicated on highway signs as 'Bergen'. " Don't forget to bring both your French and Dutch phrasebooks.
Staying There: Booking.com has a few top picks for Mons which does see some business as the SHAPE headquarters are closeby. (That's SHAPE as in Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe.) Considering that you are going to be here learning about the categorization of information, The Infotel seems very apropro. And it has free WiFi. Rates start at 75 Euros a night.
What to Pack: Index cards in bulk from Costco if you want recreate Paul Otlet's mission.