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Royal Museum of Central Africa (RMCA)

Collections & Expertise

The RMCA was established in 1897 and, as a multidisciplinary institution focussing on conservation, education and research. It holds the largest biodiversity collection anywhere in the world on Central Africa, offering a complete cross-section of reference material from many central African taxa. Furthermore, the majority of the specimens originate from the relatively poorly studied megadiversity belt in the equatorial region of Africa, and from West Africa. Collections from this region are relatively poorly represented in museums elsewhere in the world. BE-TAF annex gives an overview of both collections emphasising their importance, quality, uniqueness and particular strengths.

For more details on collections, click here.

Department Collection highlights and staff expertise
Entomology Carabidae collection of Dr. P. Basilewsky covers the whole Afrotropical region and is extremely rich in type material: more than 7,500 taxa of which 1,600 primary types and and more than 3,000 secondary types.
Mineralogy Includes historical Shaba-Uranium minerals
Uranides rocks
Xylarium One of the biggest wood collections of the world (57,000 specimens - 13,000 species, mainly by Vermoesen, Louis, Pierlot, Deschamps); particularly rich and unique for central Africa
Zoology One of the largest zoological biodiversity collections in the world from the African continent: 7–8 million invertebrate specimens of 117,000 species and 1.5 million vertebrates of 6,115 species of central Africa. Collections of large apes, freshwater fishes, insects and the birds of equatorial origin are unparalleled
Approx. half of the zoological collections from the former National Parks of the (Belgian) Congo
Bird collection includes part of the historical Dr. V.G.L. van Someren collection from East Africa (early twentieth century) with many historical types pertaining to more than 100 taxa
Extensive invertebrate collection of St Helena: approximately 100,000 biological specimens
Nematology: Family Trichodoridae (virus vector nematodes). Marine nematodes: Epsilonematidae, Draconematidae, Desmoscolecida
Population biology: genetic and molecular studies of Eretmodine cichlid lineage from Lake Tanganyika
Marine historical ecology: digitisation of historical data-sets; studies on long-changes in habitats and benthic communities of the southern bight of the North Sea
Library The Royal Museum for Central Africa has a network of libraries: the subject-specific libraries, dotted around the different departments and sections of the Museum and the central library. The RMCA maintains an extensive library on African biodiversity, including the top scientific journals, but also a unique collection of rare, old colonial publications. Scientific staff master ten languages; consequently, the library and reprint documentation is unusually multilingual. For more information, click here or here.

The Central library catalogue is available here and many of the domain-specific libraries are accessible here.

Supporting Facilities and Services

In 2007 the JEMU (Joint Experimental Molecular Unit) was founded as a joint programme between RBINS and RMCA, employing scientists to sustain current molecular research in addition to the current staff. Microscopy includes a new, environmental scanning electron microscope, FEI XL 30 ESEM. The new apparatus has a number of advantages, such as the possibility to work in wet mode and to record digitised images. Leica Ultracut Ultramicrotome and a Leica EM-KMR-2 Knifemaker TEM are also available along with a Leica EM CPC and a Leica EM AFS2 for cryofixation, cryopreparation and freeze substitution of samples for TEM.

For a full list of the equipment that Users can apply to use, click here.

Information Technology and Access

The collections and catalogues of the RMCA can be accessed here at http://www.africamuseum.be/collections.

Moreover the RMCA has an "Unit of Biodiversity Information and Cybertaxonomy ". The main competences lie in Geospatial Services and Collection management. SYNTHESYS visitors may apply with projects involving:

  • Practical implementation of international and European Standards in terms of Biodiversity Information in the context of collection management and scientific research in Taxonomical Facilities.
  • Biodiversity Information Standards (tdwg.org).
  • Global Biodiversity Information Facility (gbif.org). Application of GBIF Point-radius method in geo-referencing museum specimens.
  • Introduction to Phylogeography

Research supported by the infrastructure

RMCA is the prime reference facility for multidisciplinary and comparative studies of African biodiversity. Their staff performs top research on request of a wide variety of international and national organisations.