Eva Hemmungs Wirtén


My research in PASSIM, spring 2018

I'm currently working on an article inspired by Paul Otlet's image "Laboratorium Mundaneum," from 1937. A mountain range of different types of documents—books, correspondence, journals, and patents—rise behind the chimneys and smoke of industrial processing. As the documents are transported from their different peaks into the black grinder, the “great global intellectual machinery” extract “pure” matter useful for civilization. Once processed and sorted, a small train exits from under the grinder, carrying the purified matter now numbered according to Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine’s classification system CDU. Otlet suggests that all documents are (or will be) subordinated to something bigger than themselves. Even patents. What sort of history of law, science, and information we will have if we follow patents, not down a rabbit hole, but down a black grinder? The purpose of the article is to present a theoretical and methodological framework for the study of patents as technoscientific documents in the historical transition from bibliography to documentation that can be said to reach an apex at the Congrès Mondial de la documentation in 1937.