State Archives of Belgium

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Photographs, posters and other iconographic collections

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Archives not only hold texts, but also graphic material: photographs, posters, glass negatives, etc. These images are sometimes still an integral part of the archive of the administration that received or created them. But oftentimes iconographic documents from various origins were compiled in a topographical-historical atlas or other type of collection. Be they 16th-century cityscapes, photographs from Expo 58 or drawings from the First World War: these images always speak to our imagination.

Topographical-historical atlas

In the last quarter of the 20th century, a collection of engravings, prints, drawings, plans, photographs, postcards and posters was created at the National Archives. This heterogeneous but very rich “topographical-historical atlas” is described in seven detailed inventories. The documents, be they individual items or albums, are very diverse both in form and content: portraits, posters, cityscapes, etc. In total, there are over 3,500 archival items originating from the 16th to the 20th century.  

Seal moulds

The State Archives of Belgium holds the second largest collection of seal moulds in the world. The first of the ca. 38,000 moulds date from 1864. These moulds were produced from seals attached to documents conserved by Belgian and foreign archival repositories. An estimated 10% of the seals upon which the moulds are based have been lost. Some 10% of the moulds are today in a better state of conservation than the original seals from which they are made.

The seal moulds collection has therefore become a first-rate source. Through the search engine you can find a short description of the seal with regard to content, the repository where the original seal is kept, a photograph of the seal mould and a mirror image with a description of the seal. You can search by key word.

  • Catalogue online
  • Scans online (37,318 items or 76,263 scans)
  • Want to know more?
    • All seal moulds of the National Archives are accessible online! (French and Dutch)

Iconographic collections of the First Word War

The rich iconographic collection about the First World War kept at the National Archives is the result of a large-scale collection campaign in the wake of the war. Thousands of photographs and drawings illustrate various aspects of the ‘Great War’: invasion, military operations at the Yser Front, everyday life of the soldiers, propaganda, reception of Belgian and foreign refugees, collaboration, resistance networks, liberation, etc. The collection of (colour) posters reflects the powerful imagery used by the warring parties for their propaganda; and the text posters of the city of Hasselt also give deep insight into the impact of the war on everyday life of the citizens. The same is true regarding the collection of medals and other objects (pins, ribbons, party games, etc.) collected by the Commission for War Archives.


Drawings, watercolours and caricatures



Other objects

With the support of the Commissioner General’s Office for the Commemoration of the First World War and with thanks to the players of the National Lottery.

Iconographic collections of the World Fairs in Brussels

The organisation in charge of organising the World Fair of 1935 has left an extensive archive for posterity. It contains bookkeeping records and personal files, but also a particularly rich collection of photographs, drawings and other iconographic material. Among the centrepieces are: the golden book, the photographs and drawings of the pavilions of the participating countries, but also the pavilions dedicated to particular topics, ranging from cars and household appliances to textiles and wallpapers.

The Commissioner General’s Office of the Government for the World Fair in Brussels in 1958 and the public limited company for the World Fair of 1958 in Brussels have created vast archives. The photographs, posters and drawings give a detailed picture of the expo. These archives have a particularly diverse content, ranging from drawings and photographs of different pavilions to posters about the numerous activities organised within the framework of Expo 58. All in all, they give a comprehensive picture of this period.

Collection of glass negatives of Limburg mines

When the mines of Limburg closed in 1987-1992, the State Archives acquired the comprehensive archives of the public limited company Kempische Steenkoolmijnen. In addition to one linear kilometre of paper documents, these archives also contain a rich collection of visual material: some twenty films, almost 2,000 glass negatives (photo negatives on glass plates), photo negatives on cellulose-acetate film, and tens of thousands of photographs.

The glass negatives dating from the period 1910-1950 have all been digitised. They give a thorough picture of the early years of coal production, the mining facilities, work underground, the typical suburbs (tuinwijken), the new churches, hospitals and schools, etc. The detailed descriptions of the archival items can be searched by keyword.  

In collaboration with LRM, the investment company for Limburg.

Collections of photographs and glass negatives from Namur and Eupen

A number of State Archives in the Provinces hold local photo collections. For example, the State Archives in Namur houses the non-profit organisation Archives Photographiques Namuroises that manages the legacies of several prominent local photographers. In 2016, a digitisation programme was launched.  

Glass negatives of Adolphe Dupont (Namur, 1827-1908)

The collection of glass negatives of Adolphe Dupont is managed by the non-proft organisation Archives Photographiques Namuroises and offers fascinating insights into the Belle Epoque in Namur and its surroundings (Thon-Samson, Namèche, Marche-lez-Dame, Huy, Wépion, etc.). A real treat for the eyes !

In collaboration with the non-profit organisation Archives Photographiques Namuroises.

Glass negatives from Eupen

The photo archives of the Lander dynasty of photographers were initially conserved in Elsenborn before coming to Eupen. They give us an idea of public life, business life and community life in the East cantons as from the 1930s.

Photographs of the National Institute for Agronomy in Belgian Congo (INEAC/NILCO)

In the 1950s, INEAC/NILCO (1933-1962) developed into the flagship organisation of the colonial administration in Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi. Unlike its predecessor, the Colony Plantations Administration (Régie des Plantations de la Colonie/Regie der Plantages van de Kolonie (REPCO), 1926-1933), this organisation was unequivocally of scientific nature. In addition to its research centre in Yangambi that earned international reputation, NILCO established research centres across the territory of Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi, where various aspects of agriculture were studied. The independence of Congo in 1960 and of Ruanda-Urundi in 1962 brought a swift end to the expertise gathered thus far, which was at the service - according to the critics - of large-scale and export-oriented agriculture only.

The largest part of the archival fonds bears on the management and activities of the centres. The collections of photographs, glass negatives, maps and plans have all been digitised. e-Procurement