Shannon Mattern was obsessed with office supplies when she was young—here she explores the many ways we once used to file and store paperwork, which once “constituted approximately ninety percent of the activity” in an office:

Filing tools—the spindle file, the pigeonhole file, the bellows file, the flat file, the Shannon file, the vertical file—have been around for centuries. But the First World War gave rise to a new era of business that generated an explosion of paperwork, and that paperwork needed to be filed away. “With the growth of businesses, the departmentalizing of activities, and the necessity of depending upon the written word rather than upon memory,” Johnson and Kallaus write, “[t]he person who is responsible for the orderly arrangement of those papers has one of the most responsible positions in any business office.” Those individuals who held the new and noble position of “Records Manager” had to know “where each piece of paper originates and why, how many copies of it are necessary, how these flow through the different offices and departments, where they are stored temporarily and how, and what their end may be,” whether immediate destruction, destruction after being archived, or temporary or long-term retention.