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Finding Aid for the Views of the Belgian Congo Album
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Views of the Belgian Congo Album
    Date (inclusive): 1908-1909
    Number: 97.R.58
    Physical Description: 1.0 album (185 photographic prints)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The album, compiled by an unidentified colonial agent who was in the Belgian Congo from 1908 to 1909, documents one man's experiences in the region during the first year of the newly-annexed Belgian colony's existence. The album records the agent's journey from Antwerp to Matadi and thence up the Congo river to his post at Yoboila (Lomami). The remainder of the album documents the agent's daily life, local inhabitants and surroundings.
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    Language: Collection material is in French

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Central Africa was largely unexplored by Westerners before Henry Morton Stanley's expedition (1874-1878) to trace the course of the Congo river. Excited by Stanley's discoveries, King Leopold II of Belgium, who was anxious to acquire a colony to increase the prestige and wealth of his young country, subsequently hired Stanley to help him establish Belgium's interests in the Congo. In 1884 escalating European rivalries for the region were resolved when Otto von Bismark convened the Berlin Conference to partition the Congo basin. The country of Belgium declined to participate in the colonialization of the area, leaving Leopold to receive Belgium's portion of 905,000 miles - the lion's share of the area - for himself. Leopold ran the Congo Free State as a privately controlled corporation with himself as sole shareholder and chairman. His brutal exploitation of the people and the land for its rubber, copper, and other mineral resources was exposed by British consular reports and by the European and American press to great outcry in the early 1900s, and in 1908 Leopold's private rule ended when the Congo was annexed to the Belgian state. Subsequently renamed the Belgian Congo, it remained a Belgian colony until receiving sovereignty in 1960, when it became the Republic of the Congo.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Views of the Belgian Congo album, 1908-1909, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 97.R.58

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 1997.

    Processing History

    Cataloged by Beth Ann Guynn in 2013.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The album, compiled by an unidentified colonial agent who was in the Belgian Congo from 1908 to 1909, documents one man's experiences in the region during the first year of the newly-annexed Belgian colony's existence when King Leopold's prior practices were undoubtedly still little-changed.
    The album begins with the agent's journey from Antwerp to Matadi and includes views of Tenerife, Sierra Leone and Leopoldville (Kinshassa), as well as scenes depicting the agent and other travelers during the voyage. From Matadi the album records the agent's journey up the Congo river to Bosoko and his installation at his post at Yoboila (Lomami). A trip to Stanleyville (Kisangani) in 1909 is recorded in two views of a ceremony at the city's cathedral.
    The remainder of the album is primarily dedicated to documenting the agent's daily life and the lives of the locals around him. Included are views of the agent's post and quarters, big game hunting expeditions and slain prey, and images of Tom, the agent's pet leopard cub. The agent, a bearded gentleman whose portrait is pasted onto the album's front endpaper, is present in several images. There are numerous portraits of indigenous peoples, espcially focusing on Topoke scarification, local chieftains and warriors. Also included are scenes of village life and life along the rivers and waterways, views of dancing and ceremonies, and the "harvesting" of elephant tusks. Several photographs depict chained prisioners and whippings.
    The string-bound album with green percaline covers contains 185 photographic prints on 24 mounts, both recto and verso. Titles are from the French captions written below many of the photographs. Titles devised by the cataloger are in square brackets. Also included is one loose photograph.


    In original order.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    Big game hunting--Congo (Democratic Republic)
    Corporal punishment--Congo (Democratic Republic)
    Scarification (Body marking)--Congo (Democratic Republic)
    Topoke (African people)

    Subjects - Places

    Congo (Democratic Republic)--Description and travel
    Congo River--Description and travel
    Kinshasa (Congo)--Description and travel
    Kisangani (Congo)--Description and travel
    Sierra Leone-Description and travel
    Tenerife (Canary Islands)--Description and travel

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Gelatin silver prints--Congo (Democratic Republic)--20th century
    Photograph albums--Congo (Democratic Republic)--20th century
    Photographs, Original