BNP Paribas Fortis joined BNP Paribas Group in 2009, but the bank is two centuries old and holds a remarkable amount of historic cultural heritage. For #MuseumWeek 2017, head of the Art & History team Dominique Van Hove spoke with us about the bank’s collections and efforts to promote them.
#1 – What sort of things do you do in your role as Art & History manager at BNP Paribas Fortis?
DVH: BNP Paribas Fortis is a major player in Belgium’s financial, economic and social world. The bank has kept a trace of all its activities and initiatives, in order to transparently share its heritage with the community and contribute to historical research. The bank’s artistic wealth demonstrates the company’s rich history. This vision is rooted in the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy, particularly with regard to its civil service activity.
Together with my team, we are primarily concerned with assisting with historical research and consultation of archives. Our mission comprises two parts: On the one hand, it involves developing projects with CSR, the BNP Paribas Fortis Foundation, Group Archives & History and other departments, in order to share this cultural heritage with the widest audience possible. On the other, we use art and history as federating value tools that the bank can showcase.
#2- Do your collections include rare and precious artworks?
DVH: Apart from the documents of different banking entities, our cultural and historical heritage includes collections of old machines, advertisements, bank notes and so on.
In each of these collections, there are treasures such as:•Bank notes issued by the Banque Sino-Belge in China
• Bank notes issued by the Banque Sino-Belge in China
• A bearer share from the Banque d’Outremer, the drawings of which were done by the renowned Belgian artist Constant Montald in the early 20th century
• A document from Banque Legrelle, the archives of which figure among the oldest conserved by our Bank (administrative circular dating back to 1787)
• A film directed by the Belgian cinematographer Jaco Van Dormael.
#3- What specific actions are you developing to share BNP Paribas Fortis’s cultural and historical heritage with the general public?
DVH: We’ve started a chapter dedicated to Art & History on the BNP Paribas Fortis website. This lets us upload:
- • Completed inventories
• Brochures written on architectural heritage or a historical theme
• Exhibitions held
• An interactive timeline
In 2008, the bank decided to open a Historical centre in Brussels, where researchers, students and bank employees can consult the archives and profit from the experience of René Brion and Jean-Louis Moreau, two archivist-historians from the “Association pour la valorisation des archives d’entreprise” (Association for the promotion of company archives).
Inspired by the notion that culture should be accessible to all, tours of our historical buildings at 20 rue Royal are offered for disadvantaged youth, in collaboration with the BNP Paribas Fortis Foundation. This is always an experience rich in emotion and exchanges.
Other guided visits are also offered on various occasions for clients, non-clients or associations:
- Cultural heritage days in Brussels
- The UCL Sales Engineer Student Alumni Association
- Students from the Haute Ecole Hénallux enrolled in an archivist programme
Artwork loans, document posters or bank notes to national or international exhibitions:
- “Notre Congo, Onze Kongo” at the BELvue Museum in Brussels
- Chine-Belgique, 120 ans d’histoire partagée”, Université Libre de Bruxelles, ULB.
Upon request from several departments, the following exhibition themes have been added:
- World War I
- Diversity: “Trajectories”
Also read the interview #AskAnArchivist16 with Roger Nougaret, Head of the Archives & History department at BNP Paribas