Openbaar Centrum Voor Maatschappelijk van Brussel, Dienst Archieven en Museum / Centre Public d'Action Sociale de la Ville de Bruxelles, Service Archives et Musée

  • CPAS of Brussels, Department of Archives and Museum
  • CPAS Bruxelles, Service Archives et Musée
  • OCMW Brussels, Dienst Archieven en Museum
  • Public Centre for Social Welfare of Brussels, Department of Archives and Museum


Rue Haute 298a / Hoogstraat 298a



+32 2 543 60 55


The Public Centre for Social Welfare dates back to the end of the 18th century. Due to the centralisation efforts of French regime, the various Brussels relief institutions were grouped together within the General Council of Hospices and Aid. As a result, their assets were transferred to the Council. Paintings, sculptures, jewellery etc. from the former religious foundations, hospices, hospitals and a Beguine convent were entrusted to the new administration in charge of organising public assistance.

At first, the collection of assets were kept in the administration's premises in the former Bogard convent, rue du Midi (now the Academy of Fine Arts of the City of Brussels). In 1843, the collection was moved to the headquarters of the Conseil des Hospices to the site of Saint-Jean Hospital, on Boulevard du Jardin Botanique. A tiny part of the collection was on display there, notably in the monumental chapel.

From the beginning of the 20th century, the Hospice Council – which would become the Social Welfare Commission in 1925 – began to display its collection more openly. A first presentation of Brussels' artworks was organised in 1921 at the Museum of Ancient Art. Quite quickly a small museum was established under the direction of the Archivist Paul Bonenfant in the administration offices and in the chapel. Inaugurated on 26 April 1927, in the presence of Mayor Adolphe Max, it is one of the oldest museums in Belgium. In 1935, the administration relocated to rue Haute and the collection was transferred along with it, where it has remained ever since.

Mandates/Sources of Authority

The Public Centre for Social Welfare is a public institution provided by the municipalities in Belgium. The term is a translation of the Dutch Openbaar centrum voor maatschappelijk welzijn (OCMW), French Centre public d'action sociale (CPAS) and German Öffentliches Sozialhilfezentrum (ÖSHZ).

Each municipality has, besides a municipal council, a separate OCMW/CPAS council. The fact that OCMW/CPAS is a separate institution from the municipality itself, is historical, whereas in other countries such social services are given by the municipalities themselves. Examples of social services provided by the OCMW/CPAS include financial help, medical help, housing, legal advice, etc.

Archival and Other Holdings

For the Ancien Régime, the archives of the former hospitals (Fonds H) and charitable institutions (Fonds B) are divided into charters, maps, censors, account registers and atlases. These documents make it possible to reconstruct the history of these charitable institutions in the first place, but they also provide extremely valuable information on the history of Brussels in general.

The collection of Found and Abandoned Children, whose series of minutes dates back to 1685, is of particular interest to professional and amateur genealogists.

The archives of the Hospices and Aid administration (1796-1925) are made up of several series, organised under various departments such as Board of Directors Properties, Works, Personnel, Finance, Litigation. There are also iconographic and cartographic fonds.

Opening Times

The reading room for the archives and library is open Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Conditions of Access

To access the reading room, researchers must make an appointment by email:


Access guaranteed for persons with reduced mobility.


  • CPAS of Brussels, Department of Archives and Museum website consulted on 19/07/2019

  • 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.

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