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BELMAL, a private collection organised as a museum of antique and ancient travel equipment, is also know for its restoration workshop, and atelier for the manufacture of brand-new trunks. There is also an associate school, the Ecole des Malletiers Nicolas Gilbert of Belgium, and a malletier fashion library. The BELMAL name stems from Belles Malles (French for beautiful travel trunks), and for Belges et Malles as well as Belgen en Malen (meaning Belgians and travel trunks, in Dutch and French language).


Originally based in Brussels the House of Belmal is, since 2009, established in a picturesque village of the Belgian Ardennes. Since a few years there is also the "Malles de Voyage" expo-gallery nearby the castle of Durbuy.  The collection features a number of luggage items that have a remarkable or unique history. The heritage section also includes other objects and tools from trunk-makers of Europe and other parts of the world. Other sets of items consisting of, for instance, chests, bags, packing cases, and certain fine leather goods that are part of the Archive hosted at the campus of the Ecole des Malletiers.



The idea of creating a historical museum-collection sparked when Jean-Pierre Bal, the founder of Belmal, discovered a 19th century trunk that belonged to George Lansing Raymond, a renowned professor of aesthetics at Princeton University. He toured Europe in 1890-1891. The 'Raymond' trunk was found more than a century later, in 2007, in Belgium. While the museum-project unveiled, the entire activity became a first in Europe, by integrating special institute courses in the history of travel equipment and manufacturing; the restoration activity and practice workshops; the registry of Belgian trunk-makers and brands; the research activity, and the manufacture of new trunks. In 2018 Monsieur Bal took another major step, by launching the Ecole des Malletiers Gilbert & Paré schools.  


The founder's passion for beautiful travel luggage is fuelled by the presence of a Louis Vuitton trunk of the 1880s. Since 1967 it had its very own space in the house where Mr. Bal spent the first twenty years of his life. Nowadays the lovely brown leather 'LV' trunk mixes in with the other great travel trunks of the museum collection.


Belmal & Ecole des Malletiers offer conservation and restoring services that range from minor repairs to major renovation of antique trunks and some vintage luggage. In general the trunks are from the 18th to the 20th century (approx. 1750 to 1940), including wardrobe and cabin trunks used for travel by steamship or train. Other types of luggage, such as hat trunks or boxes, portmanteaus, large bags, plate packing cases, car trunks, and early-type suitcases or valises  are also restored for the Collection, and for third parties. Thanks to his client references, research, and accomplishments, J-P Bal has become an international expert and first-class educator in the preservation of trunks; the design and manufacture of new ones, as well as the history of certain malletier brands, in Europe and worldwide.


In the BelMal Collection there is a specialist focus on Belgian trunk makers of the past centuries. The Belgium Section features antique trunks manufactured at companies such as Carlier, Coessens, Delsart, Delvaux, Denonne, Janssens Vanderkelen, Jockin, Laust, Michel, Olyslager, Piret, Stockman, Taymans, Truyen-Bertou, and Ange Faucq malletier brands. There is also an extensive and ongoing research about, on the one hand, the chest-makers (coffretiers) which in the 15th century formed the Brussels' guild and also of other cities in Belgium (mainly Brughes and Antwerp), and, on the other hand, about technical areas in the malletier artisan profession past and present.


The brands or malletier-names of the 19th and 20th century in the International Section of the Belmal Collection include for example Oshkosh, Friedrich, Delhopital, Griffith, Rascher, Aux Etats Unis, Duval, Barnum, Vuiton, Gulliver, Folding Trunk Company, Grands Magasins du Louvre, Hamilton's, William Bal, Goyard, Old England, Au Printemps, Hartmann, Moritz Maedler, Belber, Hammel, Moynat, Victor, Palica, Hawley's, Grand Bazar de Paris, Shwayder, and many other brands.


The manufacture of new trunks, unique ones, also takes place in Belgium. From the hands of M. Bal and his students spring the malles that have an unequaled touch; the fruit of a vision-fusion in which craftsmanship, esthetics, the arts, the heritage of the fashion world, and the creative genius all merge into one > more    


> References, TV show, bibliography,... : profile of the master craftsman.



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Ecole des Malletiers Nicolas Gilbert & Jean Paré oclc library (worldcat)


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© Copyright 2021, OGISPES o.b.o. BELMAL Museum and Trunks Restoration, Ecole des Malletiers - ITES Institute for Travel  Equipment and Luggage Histor yStudies (Belmal Conservatory), and Jean-Pierre Bal, malletier. All rights reserved. Update: 2021-01-24