Rijksarchief Antwerpen-Beveren / Archives de l'Etat à Anvers-Beveren
- State Archives in Antwerp-Beveren
By Royal Decree of 24 February 1896, a national archives depository was established in the province of Antwerp. In comparison with other provincial capitals, this was rather late.
The French law of 26 October 1796 (5 Brumaire V) laid the foundations of the organisational structure of the present-day Belgian State Archives. The law stipulated that the archives of institutions and administrations abolished by the French authorities were to be collected and preserved at the regional metropolis of each newly created ‘Département’. In 1831, the archive depot in Brussels was officially named the “Archives Générales du Royaume” (National Archives of Belgium). By virtue of the Royal Decree of 17 December 1851, the “Archives de l’État dans les Provinces” (State Archives in the Provinces) were placed under the authority of the National Archivist.
Now broadly known as ‘the State Archives of Belgium’, the National Archives and the State Archives in the Provinces are a federal academic organisation that forms part of the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO). The State Archives are made up of the National Archives in Brussels and 17 State Archives that are distributed throughout the country. The State Archives’ role is to ensure the proper preservation of archival documents produced and managed by the state authorities. In order to fulfil its responsibilities, the State Archives issue directives and recommendations; conduct inspections and organise training for civil servants. The State Archives also act as an advisory body for the construction and preparation of premises for the conservation of archives and for the organisation of archive management within public institutions. The State Archives obtain and preserve (following sorting) archival documents that are at least 30 years old from courts, tribunals, public authorities, notaries and from the private sector and private individuals (companies, politicians, associations and societies, influential families, etc. that have played an important role in society). They ensure that public archives are transferred according to strict archival standards.
Around 1975, the State Archives in Antwerp was suffering from a lack of space and the fonds of the courts and external federal services were transferred to the State Archives in Beveren. In 1994, plans were put forward to expand the State Archives in Antwerp, but work on building a new wing with stores and offices only began at the end of 2007. As the extension work at the State Archives in Antwerp is still ongoing, these archives merged with the State Archives in Beveren on 1 May 2014. Once the work in Antwerp is completed, the State Archives in Antwerp will return to the Door Verstraeteplaats. The State Archives in Beveren will then operate again as an intermediate repository for the entire Flemish region.
Initially, the State Archives were housed in a small, rented house in the old city centre, namely in the Hofstraat. In July 1897, the National Archives in Antwerp opened their doors. In 1906, the State Archives moved to the Door Verstraeteplaats in the new city district 'Zurenborg'. The Antwerp architect Eugène Geefs (1854-1925) designed a monumental and rather functional building in neo-Renaissance style at that location. The facade was crowned with two picturesque turrets and a bronze statue of the history muse Clio. The new building could accommodate 2.67 kilometres of archives.
The design of the archive building was progressive for its time. Especially the preventive and structural safety measures against fire, frost and water - together with sunlight the most important enemies of archive documents - were innovative. To prevent fire from spreading, the archive depot was compartmentalised. The archive rooms were separated from each other by thick reinforced concrete walls and fireproof metal doors. The stairwells were placed outside the archive depots and the smaller metal spiral staircases in the corner towers were equipped with metal vault doors. Moisture problems were prevented by providing preventive ventilation holes in the outer walls. The innovative concept gained international acclaim at the beginning of the 20th century. "An enviable archive building", "un modèle du genre" and "the most instructive and a model for us" were some of the many accolades.
At the end of the 1930s, the archive warehouse became completely full. Spurred on by the German Archivschutz, a new wing was added on Bosduifstraat in 1942. The capacity of the warehouse doubled. But the rapid growth of archive files in the second half of the last century meant there was a serious shortage of space again. Therefore, from 1994 onwards, the Government Buildings Agency and the State Archives made plans for a substantial extension and renovation of the building. It was only in the autumn of 2007 that the far-reaching work began. The files and the staff of the State Archives in Antwerp were temporarily moved to the State Archives in Beveren. In 2012, the structural work was completed, but a protracted dispute between the Public Buildings Administration and the main contractor meant that the second phase (finishing, HVAC and electricity) was postponed for several years. In 2018, things started to move again. The building concept was updated and the finishing phase was put out to public tender for a second time. In October 2020, the renovated building was delivered and in December of that year it was officially handed over to the State Archives.
The renovated building has ultimately become a beautiful symbiosis between the belle époque grandeur of the early 20th century and the functionality, comfort and technology of the 21st century. By using large areas of glass in the public areas, the interior looks transparent, open and fresh. The former courtyard garden made way for a reading room with 40 comfortable seats, bathed in a sea of light. The glass dome is strongly reminiscent of that in the Flemish Parliament building in Brussels. The authentic elements were restored as much as possible: from the white mosaic floor with the Belgian tricolore border in the hall, the monumental wooden front door with bronze fittings, the stately wrought-iron hall staircase, the high ceilings in the offices ... up to the original concrete archive racks and fireproof iron filing doors. A conscious decision was made to harmoniously integrate the original furniture (dating from the beginning of the 20th century) into the current interior.
Partly as a result of the long drag of the building work, the State Archives of Antwerp merged with the State Archives of Beveren on 1 May 2014 to form one administrative service. From 2014 to 2020, the Antwerp-Beveren State Archives operated exclusively from Beveren. Between December 2020 and February 2021, more than 11 running km of archives were moved from the depot in Beveren to the renovated State Archives in Antwerp. In April 2021, the renovated archive building opened its doors and the headquarters of the Antwerp-Beveren State Archives were moved to the Door Verstraeteplaats. The State Archives in Beveren function as the auxiliary depot of Antwerp from now on.
The archives held at the State Archives in Antwerp-Beveren can be subdivided into two main geographical areas. Most of the documents can be freely consulted in the reading room of the depot in Beveren.
Researchers should note that the archives that were under the jurisdiction of the former judicial district of Dendermonde have been held by the State Archives in Ghent since 2015.
The State Archives in Antwerp-Beveren hold:
1) Archives under the jurisdiction of the region of Flanders
These archival collections cover all or large parts of the Flemish region:
- Parish records of the Ancien Régime
- Civil status records (19th and 20th centuries)
- Commercial records of the Commercial Courts (essentially 20th century)
- Company archives (mainly 19th and 20th centuries)
- Archives of the central services of the Flemish Community (mainly in the second half of the 20th century)
- Overviews of available funds
- Finding aids
2) The archives under the jurisdiction of Antwerp
The archives under the jurisdiction of Antwerp come from public and private institutions, organisations, families and individuals who were, at one time or another, on the territory of the current province of Antwerp.
- Public Archives of the Ancien Régime
- Public archives of the contemporary period
- Ecclesiastical Archives
- Notarial archives
- Private Archives
- Genealogical sources
- Overviews of available funds
- Finding aids
For more on the State Archives in Antwerp-Beveren's holdings, see:
There are several online search engines: keyword, archives, creator, persons, themes (http://search.arch.be/). In order to facilitate access to documents, archivists produce academic reference works aimed at users, such as archive group overviews, guides, historical source studies and, in particular, inventories and search guides with detailed indexes. The search guides can be consulted in the reading room, and they are currently subject to a digitisation initiative, which aims to make them fully accessible on-line or via the intranet available on the computers in all the depositories of the State Archives.
State Archives guides and inventories may also be downloaded or purchased from the following link:
For guides concerning the archives under the jurisdiction of the Flanders region, see:
PRENEEL M., Overzicht van de archieven in het Rijksarchief te Beveren. Archiefvormers van het ressort Vlaanderen, Guides des fonds et collections, série Aperçus n°7, publ. n°4543, Archives générales du Royaume, Bruxelles, 2006 (http://www.arch.be/docs/depots/antwerpen-beveren/archievenoverzicht-rijksarchief-beveren.pdf)
For guides to the archives under the jurisdiction of Antwerp, see:
HOUTMAN E., Overzicht van de archieven en verzamelingen van het Rijksarchief te Antwerpen, Guides des fonds et collections, série Aperçus n°6, 3 tomes, publ. n°4542, Archives générales du Royaume, Bruxelles, 2006 (http://www.arch.be/docs/depots/antwerpen-beveren/archievenoverzicht-rijksarchief-antwerpen.pdf)
DEVOS G., COPPIETERS G., LEMAYEUR B. en SAS B., Gids van bedrijfsarchieven en archieven bij werkgevers-, werknemers en beroepsverenigingen in de provincie Antwerpen, série Guides n°59, publ. n°4016, Archives générales du Royaume, Bruxelles, 2002.
Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
July and August: Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed on Mondays, Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, and inventory days.
Documents are distributed at 9:15 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. It is possible to reserve a maximum of five documents one working day in advance. References for documents to be reserved in advance should be communicated to the State Archives Antwerp-Beveren by email or fax.
Since 1 June 2018, access to the reading rooms of the State Archives is free. This new measure has been put in place to ensure access to our archives for all citizens. The State Archives online archives, which include civil status and church registers that are older than 100 years, can be accessed for free as well.
For other fees that may apply, please see: http://www.arch.be/docs/tarifs.pdf
The State Archives are committed to ensuring access to its reading rooms and other common areas for all users. Several improvements have been made in recent years to facilitate access for people with reduced mobility (parking spaces, access ramps, toilets, etc.). For further information about access to the State Archives in Antwerp-Beveren, please contact the institution by phone or email.
For information on reproduction services and fees, please visit the following web page: http://arch.arch.be/index.php?l=en&m=practical-information&r=reproductions
State Archives in Belgium website last consulted on 14/06/2022
Pierre-Alain Tallier (dir.), Gertjan Desmet & Pascale Falek-Alhadeff, Sources pour l'histoire des populations juives et du judaïsme en Belgique/Bronnen voor de geschiedenis van de Joden en het Jodendom in België, 19de-21ste eeuw, Brussel, ARA-AGR/Avant-Propos, 2016, 1,328 p.