Mini-expo at FelixArchief in Antwerp: “Foreigners in a foreign city”

The FelixArchief (the City Archives of Antwerp: announced in their recent newsletter from February, sent out via email, that the subject of the mini-expo which will run from February 12, 2019, until Friday, April 5, 2019, will be about “Vreemdelingen in een vreemde stad” (Foreigners in a foreign city). I think that it is worth sharing, hence this post with a translation of the original announcement

(please note, the translation is my responsibility and was not specifically endorsed by the FelixArchief. I’ve included the full URL with the original announcement below the translated text.)

In 1839, the then Sûreté Publique (State Security Service), was commissioned to check all foreign nationals on Belgian territory. In order to gather the necessary information about each foreign national, the State turned to the cities and towns. They were instructed to keep a close eye on every stranger and to forward documents with information to Brussels, where they were kept in a central file.

Antwerp started in 1840 with the systematic construction of aliens’ files. Antwerp attracted many migrants thanks to the port and the city as an economic growth center. Some were in transit, many settled permanently in the city. In 1940, the number of alien files counted more than 270,000 pieces. While many nineteenth-century files were destroyed from the central Brussels repository, due to lack of space, the Antwerp series has been completely preserved.
These files offer a very complete overview of the migratory flows, but they also tell us the ups and downs of half a million migrants looking for a better life, a safer home base. After the First World War, the migrants literally come into the picture through the many portrait photographs.

For the period 1840 – 1930 all 215,000 files were digitized. In 2014, the FelixArchief started a project to describe these files in a database with the help of volunteers and reading room staff. In 2016, we pushed the crowdsourcing project into a rapid with 1,200 to 1,400 files per week. Thanks to the efforts of many, we were able to put the latest file descriptions online in January 2019 after 5 years. 392,000 migrants thus come out of anonymity and can be searched via the website of the FelixArchief. Moreover, all public files can be consulted online.

With the mini-expo “Aliens in a foreign city” we want to bring this unique series to the attention. We introduce the public to the series of alien files and illustrate the value of this rich source on themes such as Holocaust and Red Star Line. This mini-exhibition runs from Tuesday, February 12 (2019) until Friday, April 5 (2019), during the opening hours of the FelixArchief.

Source of the text with the original announcement:

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