In the information science world, “indexing”  denotes various methods for organizing data so that it is easily searchable.  To a student, however, the word might evoke images of 3×5 lined cards with every bit of potentially useful information crammed into the available space. The Atlantic brought this interesting topic to us in the article, “How the Index Card Cataloged the World.”

Index cards are still used today–who doesn’t remember using them for presentation notes or as a teacher-sanctioned exam aid?  But do we realize the role that this common information item plays in history? The index card was conceived by Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, physician, and the father of modern taxonomy. It helped set the stage for categorizing animals, things and topics, and even people.

Before publishing his famous taxonomies, Linnaeus had to organize everything himself. But instead of writing his classifications in a book that could easily run out of space, he put each organism and mineral on its own piece of paper. That way he could have a file of everything he recorded. He could easily retrieve data on any organism and mineral and reposition any of them. He was making content findable.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in taxonomies, metadata, and semantic enrichment to make your content findable.