Belgium - Libraries and museums

There are large libraries, general and specialized, in the principal cities. Brussels has the kingdom's main reference collections, the Royal Library (founded in 1837), with about four million volumes, as well as the Library of Parliament (1835) with 600,000 volumes, the Library of the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences (681,000 volumes), and the General Archives of the Kingdom, founded in 1794, with 350,000 documents from the 11th to the 20th centuries. Antwerp is the seat of the Archives and the Museum of Flemish Culture, which has an open library of 55,000 volumes. The university libraries of Louvain (1.2 million volumes), Ghent (three million volumes), and Liège (1.7 million volumes) date back to 1425, 1797, and 1817, respectively. The library of the Free University of Brussels (1846) has 1.8 million volumes. Also in Brussels is the library of Commission of the European Communities. In addition, there are several hundred private, special, and business libraries, especially in Antwerp and Brussels, including Antwerp's International Peace Information Service (1981) with 25,000 volumes related to disarmament, and the library of the Center for American Studies in Brussels, with 30,000 volumes dealing with American civilization.

Belgium's 200 or more museums, many of them with art and historical treasures dating back to the Middle Ages and earlier, are found in cities and towns throughout the country. Among Antwerp's outstanding institutions are the Open-Air Museum of Sculpture in Middelheim Park, displaying works by Rodin, Maillol, Marini, Moore, and others; the Rubens House, containing 17th-century furnishings and paintings by Peter Paul Rubens; and the Folk Art Museum (1907) featuring popular music and crafts unique to Flemish Culture and mythology. Brussels' museums include the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (founded 1795), which has medieval, Renaissance, and modern collections; Royal Museum of Central Africa (1897), which has rich collections of African arts and crafts, natural history, ethnography, and prehistory; the Royal Museum of Art and History (1835), with its special collections of Chinese porcelain and furniture, Flemish tapestries, and of 18th- and 19th-century applied and decorative art; and the Museum of Modern Art, featuring 20th-century paintings, sculptures, and drawings. Museums in Bruges, Liège, Ghent, Malines, and Verviers have important general or local collections.

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