The Hedgehog and the Fox

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Craig Robertson: Cabinets of curiosities

Ep. 74

In this programme we’re looking at what I thought of as ‘the humble filing cabinet’ until I read Craig Robertson’s fascinating book, The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information (University of Minnesota Press, 2021). It’s easy to regard filing cabinets as space-hogging lumps of metal from a bygone era filled with dusty files; an obsolete way of storing information now that all our data lives in the cloud. But previous generations thought of their data as ‘live’ too, and a century or so ago, filing cabinets were being marketed as the essence of modernity and business efficiency, the very heart of the modern office – or perhaps more accurately, its brain. Listen to the interview and find out how much this not-so-humble piece of office furniture can tell us about work, information and gender roles in the 20th century.

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