The Royal Institute for Cultural
Heritage (KIK-IRPA) has made every possible effort to respect legislation
concerning authors’ rights. If, however, it has not been possible to identify
the holder of the author’s rights in question, the work will be reproduced on
the understanding that the rights holder will contact the KIK-IRPA in order to
regularize the situation.
General search principles
In the database, information is structured into
information units known as ‘fields’.
For your searches, you should bear in mind that the
database is bilingual French-Dutch (the two main official languages of
Belgium). This means that objects are recorded in the language of the Region in
which they are located. If your search relates to objects in the Walloon
Region, introduce your request in French. For the Flemish Region, introduce the
search terms in Dutch.
This situation is
provisional: the thesaurus is gradually being made trilingual For example, if
your search covers the whole of Belgium and you key in the word ‘‘chalice‘’,
you will also find the data sheets listed under ‘‘kelk’’,
the Dutch word, and ‘calice’, the French word.
If you are uncertain of the
search terms, in some fields you can key in the first letters of a word and
then click on ‘thesaurus’ (book icon).
You will obtain a list of terms beginning with the
letters that you have keyed in. All you then need to do is to click on the
arrow next to the term that fits your search best.
Where several search terms
have the same meaning, one of the terms will be preferred to the other and the
list will mention the search term used in place of the one you have chosen.
The order in which you fill
in the fields is not relevant.
There are no differences
between upper case (capital) and lower case (small) letters.
A search gives all the terms
beginning with the letters that you have keyed in (right truncation). You can
use this feature to carry out a generic search.
Example: you type in armoire (cupboard) and then click on ‘thesaurus’:
different types of cupboards will be proposed to you: armoire à linge (linen
cupboard), armoire à provisions (food cupboard), armoire de sacristie (sacristy
cupboard) etc. If you do not make a selection and remain with armoire, you will
obtain all the different types of cupboard.
The thesaurus is a hierarchical list of terms that gives access to the tens
of thousands of terms used by the KIK-IRPA to describe objects.
Example: the term ‘armoire’
(cupboard) is connected to a broader term (higher in the hierarchy), the term ‘meuble’ (furniture). ‘Armoire’ also has narrower terms
(lower in the hierarchy) like ‘armoire à linge’
In a thesaurus you can jump from one term to another by clicking on the
term itself. The small upward arrow shows a broader (higher) term, the small
downward arrow shows a narrower (lower) term.
Launching the search
Once you have keyed in your
criteria, click on ‘’search’’ at the bottom of the screen, and the system will
select the entries corresponding to these criteria.
Click the ‘‘previous page’
button on the standard bar to return to the empty search screen.
one or in several databases?
You can choose between a general search in three interconnected databases –
Photo library, Library and People and Institutions –, or a search in one of the
databases. If you are looking for works of art, publications or a person or institution,
you can pre-select the appropriate database.
1. All KIK-IRPA databases
This search is recommended for a first approach, to get acquainted with the
resources of the KIK-IRPA in a certain field of research. It will show both the
results in the photo library and in the library and give access to the identity
record if you searched for a person or institute. For a simultaneous search in
all databases you can perform a general
. This allows you to quickly search several fields by keying in one
or more terms.
Possible search keys are:
: Artist, artisan, author of publication, person
depicted in a work or on photo, person cited in a publication, collector,
Who = Rubens: selects the works painted by Rubens as well as a portrait of
Rubens by Van Dyck, or a book on Rubens.
: Object name (object is a generic term that is
also used for buildings), object depicted in a work, event, institute’);
What = ‘caraf’:
selects a jug in Vonêche crystal as well as a jug depicted on a 17th
painting or a catalogue of Val-Saint-Lambert with jugs.
: Place of conservation, of production, of
origin or of exhibition of an object, location of a landscape, element of
nature or event.
Where = Ciergnon: selects buildings and objects in Ciergnon as well as views of
Ciergnon kept in Brussels or an article about Leopold
I in Ciergnon.
: Date of manufacture of a work of art or date of publication of a book.
A search by date in both the photo library and the library is not useful for
recent dates unless it is combined with a term in another field.
When = 1850
: as this field selects persons
as well as events, it should be combined with a term in another field
The term ‘Martin’ leads to a
statue of ‘saint Martin’ as well as to a scene: ‘saint Martin partageant son manteau avec un pauvre’
: search in the non-structured
fields (title of an artwork in the photo library, or key word of a publication
summary in the library catalogue). This search is less rigorous, but still
gives good results if you know the customary name of an artwork or if an object
stands in relation with a certain hamlet or estate, places that do not
correspond (anymore) to the current places.
The term ‘Tancrémont’
selects the famous ‘Christ de Tancrémont’ without
having to key in the place of conservation (Pepinster).
The term ‘Maredret’ not only selects the abbey but
also devotional images produced there.
2. The photo library of the
The term ‘object’ is a generic term for the photographed works and
documents. As such, a building is also considered an ‘object’ in the photo
library. Each object has its own number, which can be compared to the number in
the national register of persons.
Just like the search in all databases, the general search uses narrower
search keys. The general search is a more intuitive method which can
subsequently be refined (see below).
Search per field
Experienced users may find this type of research to be more efficient. It presupposes
a better knowledge of the fields of the databases, but gives more precise
results from the start.
To the right of the results you can see a menu which allows filtering of the
results. For each field a scrolling list indicates the possibilities to refine
Refining results is mainly useful for a general search. Whatever your
choice, if you only key in one term for which there are hundreds of results,
these will be difficult to analyze.
Where = Brussels
This selects works of art
located in Brussels, works that were produced there, depictions of Brussels
etc. You can refine your search in order to narrow down the results and remove
Refining of results is very useful when searching for objects in an
institution for which you do not know the exact name. You can search on
municipality and the institutes in this municipality will appear.
Example: If you know that a
statue is in an Antwerp church, but you don’t know its exact name, you can
first search by keying in ‘Antwerpen’ in the field ‘Municipality’
and ‘beeld’ (Dutch for statue) in the field ‘Object
name’. In the list with institutes you will find the churches, but also the
Refining selects several possibilities of which you can choose. On top of
the page the filters that were subsequently applied are shown. You can always
remove one or several and continue your search through trial and error without
having to start from scratch.
Example: You want to find an
artist and then a museum, but you don’t find the work you are looking for. You
can then remove the filter ‘Institute’ and filter on ‘Object name’ instead.
If you are new to BALaT it is best to limit the number of search criteria
since a single criterion without results can lead to failure for the whole
search. First try simple searches, which can already be very efficient.
Search with one criterion
A search on a single criterion only takes a few seconds. This allows you to
get an idea of the number of results, and to refine the search by performing a
new search with an additional criterion. Another option is to refine the search
using the menu on the right.
For example, search only a locality or name of an artist or object name,
and take a look at the results to see how the information appears in order to
get accustomed to the database.
For an artist, only key in his surname. Only a few great artists
(especially if they were copied many times, such as Rubens or Murillo) will yield hundreds of results. Don’t forget
to key in the name as follows: first name + comma + space + first name. Make
use of the thesaurus: key in the first letters of the name and click the book
If the search gives too many results, you can sort them (see below) in
order to organize them.
Search with two criteria
For most of the municipalities, objects or creators two criteria give a
manageable number of results:
creator = Jordaens
AND municipality = Antwerpen
iconography = Apollo AND
object name = schilderij
municipality = Aarlen AND
material = gietijzer
object name = doopvont AND
municipality = Hermeton-sur-Meuse
Among the results you can easily find your object of choice.
Once you are certain about the pertinence of the terms you use, you can combine
them and search more efficiently.
If you are performing a search for a large number of objects, it is best to
use the sort button. If you are for example a curator of a museum, key in the
name of your museum here. The results will contain all photographed works. The
result will however be much more interesting if you sort the results by object
name and then by artist, or by artist and then by date. If you are a
churchwarden, first sort by object name and then by date. These types of
searches can serve to make an inventory or to verify the presence of all the
objects in your institution.
If you are a student writing a dissertation on art nouveau facades,
different ways of sorting will yield different results: sort by author and then
by date; by city and then by author; start again and change the sequence of
sorting in order to diversify your approach.
Sorting the results will help you to track evolutions (materials, styles,
shapes, techniques). We use the example of bridges (object name = bridge, sort by
date): this will first reveal the use of stone, followed by steel and then concrete.
This also works for the career of an artist: keying in the name and sorting on
date can reveal whether he used a particular technique, followed by others. For
example, Jean-Baptiste Madou started his
career as a lithographer but become a painter later on.
You can search within a certain period, or on a more precise date (only
fill out the first field). The results, which are best sorted by date, also
contain the objects of which the period in the database included the date you
Example: If you key in 1853,
this will also select all objects of the second half of the 19th century (1851-1900).It
includes all objects that might date from 1853, but could not be dated with
Search by type,
technique or style
By not keying in a municipality you can perform a broader search. This is suitable
for the study of a certain type of object or to date an object using
Example: you cannot read the
date on an old burial cross, but it has a particular shape. You can search by object
name = ‘grafkruis’ (burial cross in Dutch), and sort by
Search by iconography
All the objects photographed by the KIK-IRPA are indexed according to what
is depicted (person, role of person, animal, object, plant, ornament, event…).
The online search module however does not require knowledge of all these fields
of iconographic indexing as they are all searchable with a search on iconography
Given the number of objects in the photo library, almost every search term
gives results. Hence you can see that the use of the photo library is not
limited to art historians.
Each internet user will find documents in his preferred field: someone who
is interested in insects for example can search on ‘mouche’
or ‘vlieg’ (the Dutch and French word for fly,
respectively) and by sorting on date he
will discover how flies were depicted in the course of history, for example in
17th-century still life painting or in 19th-century ceramics. A psychiatrist
will find depictions of madness in the Middle Ages or in the Renaissance Period.
A student doing an assignment on Charles V can illustrate it with works of art
of his choice (portraits, events).
The field iconography can be used to find depictions of persons according to
several characteristics (child, greybeard…), skin colour or nationality (black,
Chinese), a noble title (prince, king), a religious function (pope, abbess),
some diseases (leprosy), types (smoker, drunk) or professions (street vendor,
An iconographic search is the
obvious choice for Christian iconography, but can also be useful for searches
concerning profane subjects. If you are interested in depictions of towers, you
will find them in illustrations of Saint Barbara, whose attribute is a tower. A
deer lover can study illustrations of Saint Hubert and a dog lover those of
Saint Roch of Montpellier. A botanist will discover that a lily is the
attribute of Saint Joseph. Many concepts, allegories and personifications can
be searched as well (Dove of the Holy Spirit, cautiousness, caritas, etc.).
Don’t forget that if you are looking for the object itself and its
depictions, you can use the general search of the photo library.
Finally the thousands of KIK-IRPA documentary photos of cultural life in
Belgium can be searched as well. They are divided into twelve themes: animals,
astronomy, ceremonies, the royal family, flora, folklore, war, portraits,
spectacles, sports, vehicles.
By clicking on the map you can see all the places where the objects from
the results of your search are located (in a first phase restricted to those in
This can be very convenient for researchers who wish to visualize, for
example, the area of activity of an architect and the location of tombstones of
a particular family – making it a great asset for genealogists. Patterns will
emerge, for example, the fact that there are more panoramic wall papers in
Wallonia than in Flanders, and more windmills north of the Sambre and Meuse rivers.
This localization is of course most suited for heritage buildings: Roman
chapels, Art Deco houses, constructions and monuments (bridges, fountains…).
But it can also be useful for works of art, for example to help organizers of
guided tours to prepare thematic visits: institutes with neoclassic furniture,
contemporary art, etc., or for a researcher who is planning a study trip around
a particular artist.
By default the results appear per 24. You can change this number to 50, 100
Should your search
prove unsuccessful, there are three possible reasons:
- The KIK-IRPA has not yet
photographed any document corresponding to the criteria that you have introduced.
- The data sheets of
documents corresponding to these criteria have not yet been entered into the
electronic system (see documentation). The digitization is ongoing.
- You have not used the
criteria correctly. We invite you to re-read carefully the above text.
Have you selected the appropriate field for keying in your criterion? Have you
keyed in the appropriate terms? (Don’t forget that the lists are there to help
you). Have you remembered the bilingualism of the database?
If you are still having
difficulties, don’t hesitate to e-mail us letting us know which search has
proved fruitless. We would be glad to advise you on the use of the
Where the documents exist
but no electronic data sheet yet exists, we will let you know by e-mail. You
are also welcome to our photo library reading room, where full ‘paper’ files
are accessible to the general public and where staff are available to help you.
3. The library of the KIK-IRPA
The search engine for the library is only a temporary version (the standard
search engine of the ADLIB software).
4. People and Institutions
This thesaurus centralizes all information on persons and institutions from
the different databases of the KIK-IRPA. As they are interconnected, these
databases all share the same consultation lists. Nevertheless much work needs
to be done in order to remove all duplicated information. We thank you in
advance for all suggestions to improve this thesaurus.
Help us help
If during a search you find an ‘odd duck’, this is probably due to a
mistake while entering information in the database (in the date, description,
attribution, etc.). Don’t hesitate to point this out to us. In a database with
a million and a half data sheets it is inevitable that here and there a mistake
slips in: your help is very valuable to trace these. We thank you in advance.
This tool is first and foremost intended for you, and we should work together
to improve it.
If you are in doubt about which search term to use, you can send us an
email with the subject of your search. We can then explain how to get the best
results. One address: firstname.lastname@example.org
of BALaT: a participative tool, validated and structured by experts in art
The great size of the databases of the KIK-IRPA – more than one million
negatives, more than 50,000 items in the library, 200,000 persons and institutions
–, structured into one powerful interconnected database and searchable with a
user friendly interface, forms a solid foundation for research.
Other tools, developed by the KIK-IRPA and its partners, will shortly be added
to this database.
of the part of the library catalogue relating to publications acquired before
1998 will follow shortly as well: no less than 100,000 entries!