Organisations in Belgium:
1) Royal Museum of the armed forces and of military history (Brussels)
The history of the museum
The Jubilee park
The story begins at the end of the 19th century. Around 1860, the area of the Jubilee park, where the museum is now located, used to be the training grounds for the Civil Guard. With the expansion of the city, new residential quarters were established to connect the city of Brussels with its suburbs. In 1875, architect Gédéon Bordiau drew the first plans: a green area with exhibition halls was to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Belgian Kingdom.
This was a huge success and it was decided to expand the park. In 1888, for the Great International Competition of Science and Industry, the complex received its permanent name: the Jubilee park and the Jubilee palaces.
In 1890, the building of a one-arched arch of triumph started. Because of financial difficulties these plans were not finalised. A temporary building was erected for the World Exhibition of 1897. The Parisian master builder, Charles Girault, a favourite with King Leopold II, continued the work after the death of architect Bordiau. He drew new plans and built the famous three-arched arch of triumph, which was inaugurated in the presence of Leopold II on September 27, 1905, for the Kingdom’s seventy-fifth anniversary.
In 1910, the project was completed and the Jubilee site received its present form: two wings, consisting of large halls, connected to each other by semi-circular colonnades and as an architectural eye catcher, the impressive three-arched arch of triumph.
Today, the Bordiau Hall is all that remains from the original plans, as drawn by G. Bordiau. The most radical change to the complex took place in 1956. A fire destroyed the section along the Avenue des Nerviens / Nerviërslaan. A new hall was constructed but differed clearly from the original design and broke the symmetry characterizing the original design.
The Military Museum
For the 1910 World Exhibition, Louis Leconte collected about nine hundred objects and called his compilation Musée de l’Armée / Museum van het Leger (Museum of the Army). These objects were to give the visitor an idea of the history of Belgian armed forces in the 19th century.
The exhibition was a big success. Politicians conceived a full fledged and permanent museum and Leconte was ordered to keep the collection. Through a Royal Decree of February 28, 1911, several very rundown galleries in the former Military School in the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos were placed at his disposal.
After World War I, things moved very quickly. The collection grew considerably because of numerous contributions by private persons and through the support of several foreign governments. On June 24, 1919, Leconte (who fought as an officer for 4 years at the Yser) was asked by the Ministry of War to make a selection out of reclaimed war material. Suddenly, the Museum had a new dimension. The building bulged with so many items that new housing was necessary. A new home for these items was found in the northern wing of the Jubilee site. On June 28, 1923, King Albert I officially opened the Military Museum.
In the meanwhile, Louis Leconte had been dismissed from active military service and was appointed head curator. During World War II, the occupying forces closed the Museum down. Only the library was accessible. After the war, the collections once again opened to the public. As far as organisation went, the museum changed significantly. Several departments were established: Military History, Archives and Library, Print Collection and the Photo Department. The scientific team also grew. Suitable displays, analysis and study of the collections resulted in better services.
The Museum was rewarded for all these efforts. Through the Royal Decree of June 11,1976, it became a federal scientific institution of the second level with three departments: Technology, Scientific Documentation and Research. Its general mission is to research, obtain, preserve, and place documents, studies, publications or objects concerning military history at the disposal of the public.
The Museum is in continuous expansion. In 1972 an Air and Space Department was inaugurated and in 1980 an Armoured Vehicles Department was formed. In 1986, an important Arms and Armour collection was transported from the Porte de Hal / Hallepoort to the Museum and in 1996, a new section, the Navy Department, opened. In 2004, the European Forum of Comtemporary Conflicts was inaugurated in the Bordiau Hall presenting an overview of twentieth century conflicts after 1918.
The Museum is dedicated to offering an overview, as complete as possible, of what takes place in the military and its impact on society. It will continue to do so in the future.
2) The K.V.V.L. / S.R.A.M.A.
During the preparations for the world World’s Fair of 1910 in Brussels, the Minister of War (Lt. Gen. Hellebaut) gave his agreement to organise an attraction on a military theme. This soon became known as the ‘Military Museum’.
Second lieutenant Louis Lecomte, a collector of militaria, was given the task of organising this exposition. He had numerous contacts with private collectors. This enabled him to gather 904 objects representing our military past, including 770 coming from private collections who thus became suppliers of the future museum.
By Royal Decree of February 28th, 1911, the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces officially founded, as well as “The Friends of the Army Museum“, who must financially ensure the existence of said museum.
After the World War I, the museum gained a large collection and Louis Lecomte became its head curator until December 31st, 1945. Since 1919, the Museum as well as the K.V.V.L. is housed in what is now 2 Jubelpark in 1000 Brussels.
In 1925 the v.z.w. Koninklijke Vereniging van de Vrienden van het Legermuseum en Geschiedenis (K.V.V.L. for short), a.s.b.l. Société Royale des Amis du Musée de l’Armée et d’histoire militaire in French (S.R.A.M.A. for short), was created.
Generally though, the abbreviation S.R.A.M.A. is used by everyone, since it can be pronounced as one word.
Activities of the S.R.A.M.A.
Its goal is to promote the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History, its collections and its documentation, and to contribute to the growth and conservation of its collections.
It edits the review Militaria Belgica, which is distributed to its members and which contains articles in Dutch and French, which are mostly illustrated and concern aspects and fields of uniformology and Belgium’s military history.
It publishes a newsbulletin concerning expositions, events, sales, organised trips etc., including some abroad, as well the activities of its own sections: weapon heritage, uniformology, military and archaeological reconstructions.
The section ‘Weapon heritage‘ works towards the protection of collections of weapons, both publically owned, as well as privately owned, the latter often joining the former after the passing of their private owner.
It is mainly composed of private collectors and convenes every month. It maintains contacts with the country’s authorities on weapon legislation and has been recognised as representative of the weapon collectors by the Ministry of Justice. It lies at the origin of a list of weapons of historical value.
It also represents the Belgian association of weapon collectors in the F.E.S.A.C. (Foundation for European Societies of Arms collectors), which organises an yearly meeting in one of the member states of the EEC.
3) Belgian Gun Collectors Association (BVVW)
The association was founded in 2006, by a handful of “licensed” Flemish Gun collectors. After the introduction of the new gun law that same year, the need for an association to represent the gun collectors in the – then still to be founded – “Gun Advisory Board” became apparent.
Since the founding, our association has grown to become one of the biggest Belgian collectors associations, with contacts in both Belgium and abroad. These mutual contacts mean an exchange of information and knowledge between the various associations in and beyond Belgium.
Our contacts with the “Foundation of European Societies of Arms Collectors” (FESAC) guarantee that we can follow – at close range – the international evolution in the field of legislation and gun collecting.
Our members and their guests are regularly invited to visit museums and private collections as well as gun or product presentations and seminars. We strive to act as a strong base for the “licensed” as well as the beginning collector of firearms and ammunition.
The BVVW’s social goal is to protect the interest of legal gun collectors in general and “licensed” collectors in particular, on all possible aspects of collecting guns and ammunition .
Therefore the association strives (among other things) to:
- Promote contact between “licensed” collectors and other associations with similar goals.
- Protect and guarantee the patrimony and cultural heritage and history of gun manufacturing and production.
- Inform the members about any information relevant to its goal.
- Organize relevant events, product presentations, outings to museums, in order to improve the knowledge of the history and techniques of antique and modern firearms.
- Offer expert advice on firearms and ammunition to governments or associations with similar goals, should they request it.
- Constant collaboration with the government in order to continually optimize the statute of the “licensed” firearms collector.
4) Association belge des collectionneurs asbl
Notre association, constituée en association sans but lucratif selon la loi de 1921, regroupe des collectionneurs d’armes agréés selon la loi belge; mais elle est ouverte à tout amateur d’armes quel que soit le régime, belge ou étranger, sous lequel celles-ci ont été légalement acquises.
Nous nous intéressons aux armes pour elles-mêmes, c’est-à-dire pour l’objet, sa mécanique, son histoire, son évolution, son esthétique mais aussi ses performances ou parfois pour son étrangeté.
Notre association a pour but notamment de faire valoir notre point de vue auprès des autorités publiques habilitées à prendre les mesures législatives ou réglementaires en la matière et par ailleurs de donner une vie sociale à notre intérêt pour les armes.
Les autorités ont pour souci légitime la sécurité publique; il y a en outre une volonté politique de mettre toutes les armes sous contrôle, d’une part en répertoriant toutes les armes, autant qu’il est matériellement possible, et d’autre part en soumettant à enquêtes et examens les détenteurs d’armes. Nous pensons pouvoir jouer un rôle dans la détermination des mesures rationnelles à prendre.
MUSKET was founded in 1979 and currently has about 200 members from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom.
The aim of the Society is threefold:
- To stimulate the general public’s interest in the technical, artistic and historical aspects of arms and armour. In doing so, we try to remove the general distrust against gun collectors and arms collecting in general.
- To help the serious members, and to encourage the sharing of information, and further study.
- To contribute, where possible, to the preservation of our heritage of historical arms, both private and public.