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BELMAL, located in the south of Belgium, hosts a museum type of collection of antique and vintage travelling trunks, as well as a restoration workshop for ancient travel equipment, and also the manufacture of brand-new Belmal Malletier trunks. 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).

 

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. Another set of items, consisting of, for instance, chests, bags, packing cases, and certain fine leather goods, are part of the BelMal Archive, plus the historical documentation. 

 

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, it also became a first in Europe as it integrated specialised institute courses in the history of travel equipment and manufacturing techniques; the restoration activity and practical workshops; the registry of worldwide and Belgian trunk-makers and brands; the research activity, and also the manufacture of new trunks. 

 

The passion for beautiful travel luggage of BelMal's founder is fuelled by, for example, 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 other 'great travelling trunks' of the museum collection.

 

BelMal offers 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 1930), including wardrobe and cabin trunks used for travelling 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 of suitcases (valises,...)  are also being restored for the BelMal collection, or for third parties. All activities take place under the aegis of a not-for-profit organisation that focuses on education and historical heritage. 

 

In the BelMal Collection there is a specialist focus on Belgian trunk makers of the past centuries. The Belgium Section features trunks manufactured by companies such as Coessens, Delsart, Delvaux, Denonne, Janssens Vanderkelen, Jockin, Laust, Michel, Olyslager, Piret, 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 and malletier-names of the trunks in the International Section of the Collection include  for instance Oshkosh, Friedrich, Delhopital, Griffith, Rascher, Aux Etats Unis, Duval, Barnum, Gulliver, Folding Trunk Company, Grands Magasins du Louvre, Hamilton's, William Bal, Old England, Au Printemps, Hartmann, Moritz Maedler, Belber, Hammel, Victor, Palica, Hawley's, Grand Bazar de Paris, Shwayder, Moynat, Goyard, and Louis Vuitton of France.  A few collection trunks can be seen in the virtual visit section, for example Folding Trunk and Louis Vuitton.  Other travelling trunks, travel equipment, and materials are described in the supplementary sections of our website. Further enhancements and site extensions will be unveiled in the course of 2016.

 

Novelties are also found at BELMAL MALLETIER, where new trunks are manufactured entirely by hand, in the Belgian atelier. The bespoke trunks for travel are made on special order for customers, while the unique artwork ones are on special presentation to collectors. 

 

For references of craftsmanship, TV tribute, movie and prizes,...  see the restorer's profile page.

 

 


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© Copyright 2016, Bridgegate o.b.o. BELMAL Museum and Trunks Restoration, ITES Institute for Travel  Equipment and Luggage History Studies (Belmal

Conservatory), and Belmal Malletier. All rights reserved for all countries.  Reproduction of any content of this website is not allowed | Updated: 2016-05-25