Cultural Anthropology and History

Since its creation in 1898, the museum has kept the archives of private individuals, companies and institutions that have a link with the former Congo Free State or Belgian Congo. 

The museum's work as a scientific institution has also produced a significant and varied collection of museum archives.

The archives can be consulted for scientific research by appointment. Contact the relevant managers and contact persons:

Henry Morton Stanley archives

The personal archives of journalist and traveller Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) contain:

  • 65 travel journals and notebooks
  • 10,000 letters
  • 800 drawings, photographs, slides and maps
  • manuscripts and press cuttings 

The Stanley archives belong to the King Baudouin Foundation. The Royal Museum for Central Africa keeps and manages and them.

Chief Scientist:
Mathilde Leduc-Grimaldi
+32 2 769 52 79


Private individual archives - Colonial History

Some 400 archive collections covering:

  • European exploration of Central Africa from the middle of the 19th century
  • Leopold II’s colonial expansion policy
  • the Congo Free State
  • the Congo under Belgian colonial rule
  • the Congo after the 1960 independence

General overview

General overview of the RMCA's archives (pdf, 2.8MB, in French)

Van Schuylenbergh, P. (1997), La mémoire des Belges en Afrique; Inventory of the private historical archives of the Royal Museum for Central Africa from 1858 to the present day.

We are working on an update of this inventory.

Detailed inventories

A detailed inventory is available for a selection of private individual archives.

Consult the list of inventories


Chief Scientist:
Patricia Van Schuylenbergh
+32 2 769 52 76

Tom Morren
+32 2 769 56 85


Private individual archives - Decolonisation and independant Congo

Twenty archive collections covering political developments in the DR Congo between 1950 and the present day, with 400 boxes of archives originating from private individuals who lived or worked in the Congo or who carried out research on the Congo. 

The largest include:

  • the Benoît Verhaegen collection (founder and former director of the  Centre d'Études et de Documentation africaines, CEDAF)
  • the Kithima bin Ramazani collection (archives of the Mouvement populaire de la Révolution, MPR political party)
  • the Jules Gérard-Libois collection (founder and president of the Centre de recherche et d'information socio-politiques, CRISP, and the Centre d'Études et de Documentation africaines, CEDAF, a large portion of which may be consulted in the online catalogue)
  • the Renée Fox collection (former professor at the University of Pennsylvania, specialist in the sociology of medicine)
  • the Honoré Paelinck collection (containing documents concerning the Office national des Transports, ONATRA).

The different components of these archive collections are registered in the catalogue of the Library of Independent Congo.

> Online catalogue of the Library of Independent Congo

Chief Scientist:
Jean Omasombo Tshonda
+32 2 769 58 44

Lore Van De Broeck
+32 2 769 58 45


Historical archives of the Royal Museum for Central Africa

The RMCA’s institutional archives contain a vast and varied collection of documents, the oldest of which date back to 1910, the year in which the building of the Museum of the Belgian Congo was inaugurated.

They include mission reports from scientists who travelled in Africa at the beginning of the colonial period.

Chief Scientist:
Maarten Couttenier
+32 2 769 58 43

Tom Morren
+32 2 769 56 85


Archives of companies and institutions

In the years that followed the Congo's independence, several major mining, forestry and railway companies and a number of Belgian institutions that had operated in the country donated their administrative archives to the museum. 

Some of these collections have been catalogued by the Association pour la valorisation des archives d’entreprises (AVAE-VVBA).

More information on the archives of the Groupe Empain and the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer du Bas-Congo au Katanga (pdf, 129 Kb)

Chief Scientist:
Patricia Van Schuylenbergh
+32 2 769 52 76

Tom Morren
+32 2 769 56 85


Audiovisual sources

The audiovisual collection contains some 650 film archives in 35, 16 and 8 mm format.

The majority come from the former Office de l’Information et des Relations Publiques pour le Congo Belge et le Ruanda-Urundi (Inforcongo), the Union Minière du Haut-Katanga (UMHK) and private individuals.

They deal with various aspects of the Belgian Congo and the colonial world, and their propaganda, between 1940 and 1960.

The collection also contains documentaries and reports in various media formats, along with sound recordings broadcast on Belgian and Congolese radio between 1952 and 1960.

There is also a large collection of interviews on DVD of Belgian and Congolese people who experienced the colonial period. These interviews were conducted in French by the non-profit organisation Mémoires du Congo and in Dutch by the non-profit organisation Afrika Getuigenissen, as well as by the RMCA for a number of exhibition projects.

Chief Scientist:
Patricia Van Schuylenbergh
+32 2 769 52 76

Sophie de Ville
+32 2 769 57 31