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photo d'archive d'une salle du Musée

The Royal Museums of Art and History: the History of its Buildings and its Collections based on the Museum’s Archives

FED-tWIN is a federal research program of the Federal Public Service Science Policy Programming Service (BELSPO) with the aim of stimulating sustainable cooperation between ten federal science institutions and Belgian Universities through the funding of joint research profiles.


Leaving aside a handful of recent scientific articles, the only general publication on the history of the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH), its buildings and the development of its collections is a Liber Memorialis, published in 1985 on the occasion of the museum’s 150th anniversary. While the latter publication was aimed at a general public, no other encompassing scientific and critical study on the history of the RMAH that attempts at tracing this history against the background of broader (inter)-national socio-political and cultural developments, has so far been published, despite the fact that vast amounts of unstudied documents are looming in the museum’s institutional archives.

This proposal therefore focusses on exploring these archives of which the vast majority has never been properly organised, inventoried and described. Because of this, these archives have never been exploited at their full potential although they are inextricably bound to the history of the RMAH, its buildings and collections.

In collaboration with the archivist of the RMAH, the FED-tWIN researcher will work on closing this knowledge gap by eliminating the enormous backlog in archival description, (online) access and digitisation of the RMAH institutional archives with the specific aim to make these archives available to the general public but also for further scientific research. Indeed, these archives are a vital source of documentation for any serious research on the museum’s past. Following the archival description of these archives, several research questions will be addressed that ultimately will result in a new critical and scientific study on the history of the RMAH. Special attention will be devoted to the various historical buildings of the different museums that form the RMAH but also to the different actors that were responsible for the development of its collections.

RMAH and Universiteit Antwerpen (Department of Heritage Studies)

archive photo of a gallery in the Museum
The digitisation of this photo was made possible thanks to Belspo's Digit03 project.