Antwerp opens historic visual archive up to the world


After two years of cataloguing, a collection of videos, images and equipment is ready to find a new home at institutions around the region

Re-purposing heritage

A historic audiovisual archive donated to the province of Antwerp in 2015 is ready to be split up and distributed to other collections, the Antwerp Photo Museum has said. The archive was created by the imaging technology group Agfa-Gevaert.

The collection includes photos and films as well as documents and equipment such as cameras and printers. It was previously housed in Varenthof castle in Mortsel, but the company wanted to give the building a new purpose. The decision coincided with the retirement of Laurent Roosens, the archivist who had given form to the collection since 1963.

The archive was donated to the Photo Museum on behalf of the province, which paid €160,000 for it to be analysed and catalogued. Now that is done, the collection can be divided up into about 40 sub-collections, each finding a new home.

Interested parties have already begun making enquiries, including Antwerp University, the state archive in Beveren and ADVN, the documentation centre for Flemish nationalism. Agfa-Gevaert founder Lieven Gevaert also founded the Flemish Economic Union and was a prominent member of the Flemish independence movement. 

“Given the importance of this archive, the province grabbed the chance to open it up to the world,” provincial deputy for culture Luk Lemmens said. “It can be used for scientific purposes, but the wider public should also be able to get to know it. The way this project has been approached can also be an inspiration to other policy-makers on the question of re-purposing heritage.”

Photo courtesy Agfa-Gevaert