Virunga, Archives and collections of an outstanding national Park
P. Van Schuylenbergh and H. de Koeijer (eds), 2017. Royal Museum for Central Africa and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Collecties/collections,189 pp.
Today, and from its creation, the Virunga National Park, formerly known as the Albert National Park, is internationally renowned and recognized. The oldest national park in Africa, founded by Belgians with the support of American scientists to protect the mountain gorilla, Virunga covers a vast zone with a diversity of natural habitats sheltering exceptional flora and fauna that had to be protected come what may. For this purpose, scientific management of the park sought primarily to carry out full inventories and monitor the environment over the long term.
The collections of the Royal Museum for Central Africa and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences conserve a significant portion of the documentary heritage amassed in the park and which recounts the fascinating and sometimes challenging human adventure behind it. Institutional archives, reports, scientific publications, photographs, maps, and above all, multidisciplinary collections from exploratory and fieldwork missions conducted until the early 1960s embody a formidable source of knowledge, from which researchers and environmental conservation managers can still reap enormous benefits today. The gradual classification and digitization of these data, available in open access, will lend maximum visibility to these sources for their many users. Meanwhile, historical research makes it possible to contextualize them with precision and grasp the issues at stake. Our two institutions preserve and enhance the value of these unique testimonials from the past, for our present and our future.
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