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Presentation of the Æquatoria Archives
The archives of the Centre Æquatoria consist of a total of 250,000 sheets (35 meters of archive boxes). An overview of the documents constituting the Æquatoria archives can best be provided by arranging them according to their origins, which are quite diverse.
The largest contribution comes from Father Hulstaert himself, who in 1979 bequeathed to the arising Centre Æquatoria the massive scientific correspondence he had been exchanging with other (missionary-)linguists and (missionary-)ethnologists (such as Bittremieux, Van Bulck, Tempels, Van Caeneghem, E. De Boeck, and many others); his lomongo dialect enquiries; his collection of clippings on colonial themes (1940-1960); his botanical and zoological notes; a number of exceptional geographical and linguistic maps; and the hundreds of booklets in African languages he owned.
Gustaaf Hulstaert also offered the Centre Æquatoria historically interesting documents of other persons and institutions which he had obtained since his arrival in the Congo in 1925, i.e. most of Edmond Boelaert's personal documents, research notes (mostly on Mongo history and oral literature), and manuscripts (which Hulstaert had inherited at Boelaert's dead in 1966); notes with linguistic (vocabularies and translations) and ethnological information collected by the Trappist Fathers between 1895 and 1925 (when their entire mission province was taken over by the MSC missionaries); documents related to the peoples (i.a., the Anioto sect) and colonial administration of the Province Orientale, which originally belonged to Maurice De Ryck (1900-1964), an important colonial administrator; a collection of Mongo oral literature compiled by Mgr E. Van Goethem (1873-1949), the first bishop of Coquilhatville; the documents of Renier Van Egeren (1912-1973), a colonial administrator in service between 1938-1960 who collected precious ethnographic and colonial information.
In addition to these contributions from Hulstaert, the Centre Æquatoria also got hold of photocopies of historical and linguistic documents of the diocesean archives of Mbandaka, as well as of holdings of the provincial administration in this city.
It also acquired parts of the documentation related to the MSC mission stations and mission schools of Boteka, Bamanya, Boende, and Wafanya.
The Centre Æquatoria was also able to constitute a collection of 'Possoz Papers', i.e. documents and copies of the correspondence of Emile Possoz (1885-1965) with G. Hulstaert. Possoz was a deputy prosecuting attorney in the Belgian colony and a tremendously prolific writer on African languages, cultures, history, and philosophy. He played a great role in the conception of the Bantu philosophy of Placide Tempels, with whom he communicated a lot.
In 1994, the Holy Sea beatified Isidore Bakanja (1885-1909), a young Mongo man who gave his life for his Christian faith. At the diocesan beatification trial of 1987, Father Honoré Vinck, director of the Centre Æquatoria, stood as Promotor Fidei. In that capacity, he was given the complete files of the case, which afterwards he added to the Æquatoria archives, together with his personal notes and the proceedings of the trial.
In Zaire's transitional period to the Third Republic (1990-1997), the Centre Æquatoria also added the proceedings of the Conférence Nationale Souveraine, the institution created to guide that transition, to its archives.
Finally, there are several other types of documents of historical value which the Centre Æquatoria has been collecting since its foundation.
A first catalogue of the archives was produced in 1980, and was published as 'Annales Æquatoria' Tome 2 (1980). Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, a number of revisions were made, the last one of which was finalized in September 2001. Mr Theo Strijcker, an old friend of the Centre Æquatoria, then very kindly offered his services to produce the first computerized version of the catalogue, which is now used for further revisions. The most up to date version can be consulted in a browse-through format on this web site.
The archives were put on microfilm, and from there on microfiches, in 1992-1994. This was made possible by a grant of the US African Archives and Museum Project (Social Science Research Council/ American Council of Learned Societies). The microfilm covers the major part, but not the entirety of the archives. Out of the total of 250,000 sheets of the archives, 185,000 sheets were filmed. Those archive items that are readily available in public libraries across the world, such as pamphlets, reports, books, and articles that were actually published and are not too hard to find today, were left out. Also, recent items, added to the collection after 1994, are evidently not included on the films. The photos of the microfilms were subsequently put on microfiches measuring 10.5 x 14.7 cms and containing 70 photos each (5 rows x 14 columns). The total collection comprises about 2,700 microfiches.
The collection in its entirety, or a thematic part of it, can be bought from the Centre Æquatoria. At present, the complete collection of microfiches has been bought by, and/or can be consulted at:
It must be mentioned that not all microfiches came out equally well after the first microfilming. Due to the poor quality of some originals, and to the difficult circumstances of filming in the equatorial forest in general, some photos are in their present form not always suited for reliable analysis. The worst ones among them are redone, and the new fiches are added to the collection.
The following publications offer more information on the Æquatoria archives, their contents, and their history:
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