Our museum halls are also virtually available. Explore our exhibition 'World Port'.

Antwerp is a city by the river, with a port. For centuries, the city was the meeting place for different cultures. Exchange was inevitable. The MAS collects the traces of this exchange and tells stories about it. About Antwerp's connection to the world. 

Take a look in the museum hall:

360 image
Some highlights from our collection:

The "bones" of the giant Druoon Antigoon
The name "Antwerp" comes from the Dutch "(H)and werpen", which means 'to throw a hand', or so the legend says. A giant once lived on the Scheldt bend. He took a toll on every passage. He chopped off a hand from anyone who didn't pay. The Roman Silvius Brabo defeated the giant and in turn chopped off his hand and threw it into the Scheldt. And so the city got it's name! The giant Druoon Antigoon really existed, these bones have to prove that ... were it not that they are actually whale bones. They are millions of years old and came into the city's collection in the 16th century.

'Bones of the giant Antigoon' - shoulder blade, VM.1992.064.001, Collection City of Antwerp, MAS, photo: Michel Wuyts




Bow decoration with snake head, beech wood, approx. 690
This bow decoration was dredged from the Scheldt in 1951. Snake or dragon heads are usually associated with Vikings. In 836, the place that we now call Antwerp, was destroyed by the Normans. However, the settlement was strategically located and was quickly inhabited again. From the 9th century it was fortified into a castle, in defense of the then nearby border with the German Empire.

Reproduction of bow decoration (presumably) of a Viking ship, AS.1963.030.001.B, Collection City of Antwerp, MAS, photo: Michel Wuyts.

Sleutelplaat met tweekoppige adelaar



Key plate of the Hansa House, iron, 1564 - 1569
Antwerp had a prosperous period in the 16th century, due to trade contacts with Portugal, England, Spain, Italy,… The German Hansa League was an alliance that promoted the trade interests of some German and Northern European cities. Their ships mainly brought grain, wood, beeswax, fur, fish, sheets, wine and beer. In 1553 their office moved from Bruges to Antwerp, where the prestigious Hansa House was built. The building served as a warehouse, office and accommodation space, and had later on had many other functions. In 1893 it burnt down. Today the MAS is located at the same location of the Hansa House.

Vos, Maerten de (designer), Key plate with two-headed eagle, from the Oostershuis, AV.3839, Collection City of Antwerp, MAS, photo: Bart Huysmans & Wuyts


Studie voor het schilderij 'Intrede van de 1ste consul Napoleon te Antwerpen in 1803'

Study for the painting "Entry of the 1st consul Napoleon in Antwerp in 1803", Matteus Ignatius van Bree, 1803
The port of Antwerp underwent a metamorphosis during the French era (1794 - 1814). Napoleon saw Antwerp as a crucial port for his plans for the conquest of Europa. He is considered as the founding father of Antwerp as a modern dock harbor. The Bonapartedok and Willemdok at the foot of the MAS are silent witnesses of this revolutionary time. With this study, Van Bree visualized the arrival of Napoleon. The Walburgiskerk and the stone crane are recognizable in the background. A larger identical canvas is in the collection of the museum of Versailles.

Bree, Mattheus Ignatius van (painter), Study for the painting 'Entry of the 1st consul Napoleon in Antwerp in 1803', AS.1959.097, Collection City of Antwerp, MAS, photo: Bart Huysmans & Michel Wuyts

Scheepsmodel van het raderstoomschip "Elisa"


Ship model of the paddle steamer "Elisa", block model, ca. 1840
This nearly two-meter-long model embodies the 19th-century quest for a fast and efficient ship. The ship is rigged with sails, as was customary for centuries. The chimney also reveals the presence of a steam engine. The ship has no propeller, but paddles on both sides. And while difficult to figure out with this model, a hybrid build of wood and iron isn't unlikely. Sailing ships remained in use for a long time. Only in 1872 more steamships docked in Antwerp than sailing ships, and until after 1900 sailing ships remained competitive on some lines.

Ship model of the paddle steamer "Elisa", AS.1964.085.002, Collection City of Antwerp, MAS, photo: Bart Huysmans


Arrivée en bateau, Lumière, 1897
This is probably the first moving image of the port of Antwerp. The Lumière brothers show in this panorama the view of the Scheldt quays, after the straightening in 1870. Extras are steamships, cranes, the hangars on the quays, ... The late 19th century city forms the backdrop.

Schaalmodel van een verplaatsbare waterkraan of portaalkraan bestaande uit kraan en los voetstuk met rails: voetstuk


Scale model of a hydraulic crane
Antwerp invested in hydropower from 1870: hydropower plants pressurized water, with which bridges, locks and cranes could be operated. This was a special innovation. This crane could lift up to 2 tons. In the early 20th century, they helped determine the skyline of the port. One of the 226 cranes is in the MAS collection, and can still be admired on the Jordaenskaai.

Scale model of a movable crane consisting of a crane and separate pedestal with rails: pedestal, AS.1929.009.2-2, Collection City of Antwerp, MAS, photo: Bart Huysmans & Michel Wuyts

De buildrager



The Dock Worker, Constantin Meunier, bronze, 1898
Until the turn of the last century, physical strength was indispensable in the port. Transhipment of goods was mainly done manually: dock workers carried bagged goods. Meunier sculpted the archetype of the dock worker, recognizable by the hood, which was supposed to protect their head and neck during labor. You'll find another copy of the statue at the Antwerp city hall

Constantin Meunier, Dock Worker, KMSKA.1320, City of Antwerp Collection, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, photo: Michel Wuyts

And there's more ...

In our museum hall you'll find many other objects. You'll discover them all during a real visit to our exhibition.

See also
Take a look around the different rooms thanks to the 360 ° photos. And we present some remarkable objects to you.
Trade and shipping
Once the largest port in the world, today the Port of Antwerp is characterised by colourful containers. It connects the city with the rest of the world. Dive into the history of our port.