Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage
The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) is dedicated to the study and conservation of the artistic and cultural assets of the country, both from the field of Art History and Heritage Sciences. It is a member of RIHA (International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art). The building that houses the KIK-IRPA was the first in the world to be designed, in 1962, to simplify the interdisciplinary approach to the preservation of art assets. The three departments of the institute, which are home to art historians, photographers, chemists, physicists and conservators-restorers, operate in close collaboration.
The ‘Documentation’ department, which is concerned with art historical research and inventories of works of art, has one of the world leading photographic libraries on the field (around 900,000 photographs, of which 650,000 can now be downloaded free of charge from the KIK-IRPA website). The Centre for the Study of the Flemish Primitives is a research unit specialized in fifteenth-century painting of the Southern Netherlands. It has its own library and a vast collection of over 35.000 photographs. In addition, the department has a library and file archives containing documentation in the fields of art history and conservation-restoration.
In the laboratories, researchers use hi-tech instruments (such as de X-ray fluorescence spectrometer or scanning electron microscope) to study techniques, materials, damage and the dating of art assets. In another section, methods and materials to reinforce monuments are developed and tested.
The ‘Conservation and Restoration’ department, which contains 10 workshops and to which the Preventive Conservation unit was recently added, deals with the conservation and restoration of paintings, sculptures, gold and silver, textiles, glass and other adornments of historical monuments.