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Royal Museum for Central Africa

Institution info


Tervuren, Belgium





The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) is a centre for knowledge and resources on Africa, in particular Central Africa, in an historical, contemporary, and global context. The museum exhibits unique collections. It is a place of memory on the colonial past and strives to be a dynamic platform for exchanges and dialogues between cultures and generations.

The origin of the RMCA dates back to the Brussels International Exposition of 1897. The main building of the Royal Museum for Central Africa was inaugurated in 1910. After a period of several years of renovation, the museum is reopening in December 2018 increasing its total surface accessible to the public from 6000 to 11 000 m². The institution serves the dual purpose of a museum and scientific institute. Scientific and technical staff is dedicated to scientific research. The collection comprises of modern and ancient items, which includes: ethnographic objects, natural science collections, historic archives and photos. The vast majority of the objects come from the DR Congo, and were collected in the nineteenth and twentieth Century. Nowadays, objects and specimens are collected as part of field studies or research in close collaboration with African institutions.

RMCA aspire to be a world centre of research and knowledge dissemination on past and present societies and natural environments of Africa, and in particular Central Africa, to foster – among the public at large and the scientific community – understanding of and interest in this area and, through partnerships, to contribute substantially to its sustainable development. Thus the core endeavours of this Africa-oriented institution consist of acquiring and managing collections, conducting scientific research, implementing the results of this research, disseminating knowledge, and mounting selected exhibitions of its collections.

Collections Infrastructure

RMCA is a multidisciplinary institution focusing on natural and cultural heritage, knowledge transfer, and research. It holds one of the largest world collections on Central Africa, offering unique reference material. The majority  of  specimens  originate from  a  relatively  poorly  studied  megadiversity belt  in the  equatorial  region  of Africa; collections from the  Congo basin are poorly represented in museums elsewhere. The Biology  and Geology  departments contain  around 10 million animal specimens,  80,000 wood  specimens, 17,000  minerals, 180,000 rocks,  and  18,000  fossils. Extensive archives include field notes, books, maps and aerial photography containing valuable complementary information. The large library contains around 130,000 items, and serials.

The JEMU (Joint Experimental Molecular Unit) is an integrated research infrastructure funded by the Belgian Science Policy and supported by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS, Brussels) and the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA, Tervuren). JEMU aims at supporting scientific research on natural history collections in the fields of molecular systematics, phylogeny reconstruction, DNA barcoding, population genetics. JEMU also assists in archiving biological specimens. Following molecular analysis can be conducted at JEMU: with a total of 5 laboratories accessible.

Together with RBINS, RMCA offers high resolution digitisation of specimens  and  associated  documentation, including 2D+ and 3D scanning equipment. 

Research Infrastructure services

Visitors can access zoological, botanical (wood), and geological collections, and the accompanying library and archives.

Researchers can also access a DNA lab for pre-processing sequencing, genotyping, collection housing facilities, a wood anatomy laboratory, an extensive cartography library, remote sensing equipment and advanced spectroscopy facilities (in collaboration with nearby Belgian universities) and high resolution scanning facilities.


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Institution info

Tervuren, Belgium