The International Institute of Photography is born in 1905, resulting from the collaboration between Paul Otlet and Ernest de Potter, the Brussels-born editor of the Revue Belge de Photographie who is passionate about photography. The contract binding him to the Institute defines his main mission as the constitution of an encyclopaedia using images.
The missions of the International Institute of Photography are the following:
1. Studying documentation through photography and documentation in photographs
2. The creation of a bureau centralising collections on documentation on and using photography
3. Organising international cooperation in the area of photography
Furthermore, the Revue Internationale de Photographie (that succeeds to the Revue Belge de Photographie) publishes the works of the Institutes and progress made in the area of photography.
Amongst the collections and repertories at the heart of this institution, let us note: the collection of photographs, the collection of glass plates and projection plates (which makes up the central department for light projections), the Universal Iconographic Repertory (documentation files solely consisting of images and filed using the Universal Decimal Classification system) and the specialised photographic library.
Other types of documents will enrich these collections through time.
What is left today of the International Institute of Photography and its collections? It has taken around 15 years’ work to gather the iconographic archives and collections under the name of iconographic department of the Mundaneum. The latter gathers the archives of the International Institute of Photography and image collections: posters, postcards, glass plates (negatives and projection plates), the Universal Iconographic Repertory, the specialised library, the microfilms of the Kinescope and the recently rediscovered collection of photographs.