Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA)

A precious instrument for the conservation and restoration of our heritage.

Since its founding, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage has been devoted to the study and conservation of the artistic and cultural heritage of this country. Paintings, sculpture in wood and stone, tapestries, objects made of precious metals and glass, and even buildings are expertly researched and treated there.

The building, which was completed in 1962, was the first in the world to be designed to allow an interdisciplinary approach to the artworks. To this end, the conservation and restoration workshops, the laboratories and the documentation center bring together restorers, chemists, scientists, art historians and photographers. By comparing their research and observations, reference data can be collected and the degree of intervention required for possible restoration work can be determined.

The laboratories in particular study the techniques and materials used by our artists and craftsmen using high-tech instruments (3D microscopy, macro-XRF, raman spectroscopy, electron microscopy, gas chromatography, radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, infrared photography and reflectography, radiography , UV fluorescence ...). Their analyses enable the specific characteristics, and sometimes also the authenticity of artworks to be determined, as well as providing a better insight into the mechanisms of aging.

Various workshops are involved in the conservation and restoration of paintings, sculptures, gold and silver, textiles, glass and other adornments of historical monuments.. The philosophy of the KIK-IRPA is to restrict intervention to a minimum out of respect for historical authenticity

For understandable reasons, access to the laboratories and workshops is largely restricted for the general public (on the occasion of Open Monuments Day), in contrast with the documentation center.

The KIK-IRPA provides an impressive Information Centre. It comprises a photo library containing over one million photos, 650 000 of which are accessible online covering all aspects art treasures in Belgium. This exceptional documentation is constantly being refined and augmented. The library specialised in art history offering nearly 50 000 works and around 1 500 periodicals.

The KIK-IRPA makes its photos available via the BALaT (Belgian Art Links and Tools) database, a search engine that allows you to search 4 different data bases simultaneously: the photo library, the KIK-IRPA's Library, the Dictionnaire des peintres belges and a repertory of persons and institutions. By offering this large photo collection online and in open access, the KIK-IRPA wants to offer everyone access to the artistic and cultural heritage of Belgium.


Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage

Belgium's art history in a single click, nearly 650 000 free downloadable photos


Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage
Jubelpark 1 Parc du Cinquantenaire
B-1000 Brussels
  +32 0)2 739 67 11

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Agenda: conferences, symposia and Exhibitions

In 2017 the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage underwent a peer review. A summary of the evaluation can be found in the ‘Management Summary.