75 years of science dedicated to Belgian heritage
In 2023, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Come and join us for the anniversary celebration of this unique institution in Belgium.
A magazine to celebrate our anniversary
To mark its 75th birthday, KIK-IRPA has published a unique magazine. On 130 richly illustrated pages, it features fascinating, visually captivating articles and an ingenious comic strip highlighting our prestigious federal scientific institution's history, current projects and future aspirations. Order a hard copy and donate.
A unique institution
After the end of the Second World War, a decree of the Regent dated 24 June 1948 established the "Archives centrales iconographiques d'Art national" and the "Laboratoire central des Musées de Belgique" (ACL), a new institution, independent of the Royal Museums of Art and History. They became one of the ten federal scientific institutions a year later: the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA). The multidisciplinary work project supported by Paul Coremans was finally recognised. Art historians, photographers, chemists, physicists and restorers were brought together with a common goal: to focus on the inventory, scientific study and conservation of our heritage for the benefit of the whole country.
Content related to our anniversary
According to UNESCO, open science is defined as an inclusive construct that combines various movements and practices aiming to make multilingual scientific knowledge openly available, accessible and reusable for everyone, to increase scientific collaborations and the sharing of information for the benefit of science and society, and to open the processes of scientific knowledge creation, evaluation and communication to societal actors beyond the traditional scientific community.
Sustainability is about adapting our practices to focus on preservation for future generations. It requires linking heritage to strategies for environmental protection, social cohesion, and suitable infrastructures. However, this emerging field also needs to identify gaps and actively improve the integration of sustainability within daily practice.
In 2023, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Come and join us for the anniversary celebration of this unique institution in Belgium. Visit KIK-IRPA during the open day on 2 March and expect many surprises!
The world-famous statue of Manneken Pis wore a special costume on September 14, 2023, to mark the institution's 75th anniversary. The outfit, created by Anouk Van Beurden and Lucien Tigrine, symbolizes the various departments of the institute. By dressing up the statue, we aimed to bring together those involved in Belgian heritage and to advocate for the importance of preserving cultural heritage.
For a long time, the altarpiece of "The Adoration of the Magi" in the Basilica of San Nazaro Maggiore in Milan was attributed to a German craftsman. Following a study and restoration by KIK-IRPA, it has been revealed to be a masterpiece by a famous dynasty of Brussels sculptors: the Bormans. This momentous work has been restored to its former splendour, offering us a fascinating insight into 15th-century international exchanges within Europe.
The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage plays an essential role in the inventorying, studying and preservation of our heritage. Together with its management, we wanted the Institute to respond to the field's needs, to make its data accessible to all, in short, to become even better rooted in society. Through the diffusion of knowledge via open access, a project such as CHrisis, which responds to the needs in terms of disaster management for the whole country, or an event such as the Erfgoed Challenge Patrimoine, which questions Belgians about the heritage that is meaningful to them, all contribute to this anchoring. I hope that KIK-IRPA's excellent work will continue with the same success in order to promote our heritage for our contemporaries and safeguard it for future generations.
The IRPA story
The Institute's history is based on the idea that the scientific examination of materials is essential for the knowledge, management and treatment of heritage objects. In 1934, the chemist Paul Coremans was given the task of running the Belgian Documentation Service and, at the same time, setting up a physicochemical research laboratory. He responded to examination requests and was already recommending preventive conservation measures for the Royal Museums of Art and History (MRAH) and many other museums in the country and church factories. The Central Iconographic Archives of National Art and the Central Laboratory of the Museums of Belgium (ACL), formed in 1948, became the IRPA in 1957, an independent federal public institution dedicated to the inventory, scientific study and conservation of works of art, for the benefit of the whole country.