Touring Belgium, A Nation’s Patrimony in Print ca 1795-1914 is a three-part PriArc event, starting with a one day PhD symposium and an open call-for-papers-conference at Ghent University, followed by a two-day tour of Belgium, visiting cities and places such as Ypres, Veurne, Ostend, and Waterloo. The tour studies uses of the past in many forms, from the fictional reconstruction of Ypres after the first world war, to the collector Arthur Merghelynck’s privately collected pasts in the form of reconstructed monuments. The journey ends at one of the most historically charged landscapes in the world, namely the battlefields of Waterloo.
The conference on 23 November, examined how and why, over the course of the long 19th century, a variety of actors, ranging from tourists and writers to artists and historians, explored the nascent architectural and artistic patrimony of Belgium. The very notion of patrimony was established in this period, and promoted by a diverse set of forces: emerging tourism; the endeavours of learned societies; the imagination of literary authors; official heritage policies, and the formation of new nations (the Austrian Netherlands were annexed in 1795 to the French Republic, and became part of the (United) Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 until the independence of Belgium in 1830).
We investigate how different printed media – from travel guides and travel literature to albums and illustrated newspapers – contributed to inventorying, debating, broadcasting, promoting, and ultimately constructing this patrimony in a national and international context, in word and image. The questions that will be dealt with include: How did the printed mediation of an emerging architectural and artistic patrimony affect the way historical artefacts were preserved, transformed, collected, viewed and experienced? How was the notion of ‘Belgium’ made operative in print, and how was its art and architecture received by insiders and outsiders, such as the numerous French authors visiting Belgium in the 19th century, including Hugo and Baudelaire?
Touring Belgium is jointly organized by the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning of Ghent University and the Chair for the History and Theory of Architecture of gta at the ETH Zürich, as part of Printing the Past. Architecture, Print Culture, and Uses of the Past in Modern Europe (PriArc).