- City Archive Ostend
The Ostend city archive had, to say the least, a turbulent past that ran parallel to the history of the city. Over the centuries, Ostend was not spared from fires, wars, looting and its traces can be found directly in the city archive.
The first traces of the city archives’ existence date back to the Siege of Ostend (1601-1604). They reportedly escaped destruction thanks to their timely transfer to Vlissingen and Middelburg in Zeeland. Afterwards this archive was brought back to Ostend only to be relocated to Zeeland for a second time at the end of the 18th century as a result of the French invasion. It is not known when the archive returned, but there is an inventory dating from 24 August 1814. The successive relocations apparently also left their traces because the inventory shows that the vast majority of the documents date from the 18th century. In 1900 the City Library moved to a separate building. The old archive (from 1600 - 1815) moved with it, while the modern archive remained in the Town Hall.
During the First World War (1914-1918) this modern archive was transferred to the cellars of the Town Hall. In 1925, Carlo Loontiens, the librarian who had just been appointed archivist, had the archives covering the period of 1815 to 1832 transferred to the city library. The city archive covering the period 1832 to 1925 remained at the Town Hall on the Wapenplein. Two documents and three hundred proclamations from the Spanish, Austrian, French and Dutch period were transferred to the Museum in Fort Napoleon.
When the war broke out on 10 May 1940, a stream of refugees gradually started to flow through Ostend and from 19 May 1940 onwards the town was subject to intense attacks. The Town Hall and the City Library were completely destroyed on the night of 27/28 May 1940.
After the fire of 1940, space was made available in the cellars of the courthouse to house the new archival items.
After the war no effort was made to reconstruct the city archive and over the years it acquired a rather ambiguous status: the curator of the museum managed the "archive before 1940", while archival material dated after 1940 received no attention.
After the war, the “archive before 1940” was actually an empty box, with the exception of an 18th-century building file that was on loan at the time of the fire and later returned.
The archive after 1940 was kept in the Town Hall, first in the courthouse and then later transferred to the new Town Hall. With the mergers of Stene and Zandvoorde with Ostend, the city archive acquired new elements of archival patrimony.
Because of the ever-increasing size of the archive, the Mayor and Aldermen approved an Archive Policy Plan in August 1996. This involved the creation of the "Ostend City Archives" service (August 1996), the recruitment of a university-level archivist (August 1997), the opening of a reading room (December 1997) and the appointment of two additional staff members.
The City Archives Ostend website provides a step by step guide to help researchers prepare for their trip to the institution. It can be consulted at the following link:
Monday to Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday
The City Archives can only be consulted after introducing a written request via email, mail or fax.
Visitors to the City Archive must fill in a consultation request form on their first visit on which they provide their name, address, telephone number and the purpose of their research.
For each request to view an archive document, visitors must complete a special application form.
Visitors cannot demand that the requested documents be made immediately available. They can, however, request the archive documents in advance orally, by telephone or in writing, after which they complete the consultation and application form during their visit and then receives the archive documents for inspection.
The archival documents may only be consulted in the reading room and in the presence of the archivist or another authorized person designated by the archivist.
For more information, see the City Archives Regulations
For archive documents that are available for perusal, making copies is permitted. The applicant must complete a special form for this.
If the archivist judges that taking photocopies can damage the documents, taking photocopies is not permitted.
The copies are made by the archivist or another authorized person designated by the archivist.
The applicant cannot demand that the copies be delivered immediately. The copies can be picked up or sent at a later time. In the latter case, shipping costs are also charged.
The applicant must pay the archivist the amount of the copies and any shipping costs in advance.
The price for photocopies of archives requested in the City Archives is as follows:
- A4 copy black / white: 0.10 euros
- A3 copy black / white: 0.25 euros
- A4 copy color: 0.60 euros
- A3 copy color: 1.25 euros
Archival documents that are available for perusal may be filmed or photographed with the express approval of the archivist.
When reproducing archive documents, the applicant alone is responsible for any breaches of copyright law. The applicant is expressly reminded that obtaining a copy or copy of a copyrighted document requires permission from the author or their heirs up to 70 years after their death.
City Archive Ostend 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.