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Leuvensesteenweg 13
3080 Tervuren - Belgium
Tel. (+32) 02 769 52 11
Fax (+32) 02 769 52 42


Unique and priceless heritage

An overview of our collections

The international reputation of the RMCA is based on its expertise on Central Africa and its unique and valuable heritage.
Visitors often do not realise the extent of this heritage: barely 1% of the collection could be found in the museum’s permanent exhibition.
The ethnographic objects from Central Africa and the archives of explorer Henry Morton Stanley particularly appeal to the imagination, but the collection of animal specimens and historic documents are equally remarkable.

Origin of the collections

The RMCA’s extremely varied collections mainly come from DR Congo, but also from other countries of the African continent.
Before 1960, mainly military men, missionaries, colonial administrators, traders and scientists laid the foundation of the current collection. After 1960, the collections increased thanks to scientific missions in cooperation with Africans institutes, specific purchases or donations.

Impressive figures

10,000,000 animal specimens
6,000,000 insects
1,000,000 fish
170,000 19th and 20th century photos of Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo
650 films about DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi from 1940 to 1960
120,000 ethnographic objects
67,000 specimens of woody plants
40,000 aerial photographs
20,000 geological maps
17,000 minerals
8,000 musical instruments
4,000 works of art
2 km of historical archives (including over 10,000 letters and photographs, 88 diaries and notes of -among others- Stanley)


Most objects are stored in warehouses. They are frequently lent out for exhibitions or scientific research worldwide.

Each collection is given special attention and is preserved in a specific way:
- fish, amphibians and reptiles are preserved in alcohol
- the presence of insects on dry collections (stuffed specimens) and ethnographic objects is inspected regularly.

Except for preventative measures, restoration may be necessary for -for instance- preparation of a temporary exhibition.


Even more than valuable heritage, the collection is first and foremost a tool for scientific research. Students and researchers can visit the museum to consult documents and archives and to analyse pieces of the collection and specimens.


Digitalising the collections is one of the museum’s current priorities. This will simplify scientific research worldwide.


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