In the latest edition of Openbaar Kunstbezit Vlaanderen, a bi-monthly magazine with the purpose of opening up Flemish collections of art and cultural heritage to a wide audience, a lesser known cluster of collections is presented, the so-called OCMW-collections. OCMW stands for Openbaar Centrum voor Maatschappelijk Welzijn (Public centre for Social Welfare). It is an institution that governs many municipal social and civil services in Belgian cities. The institution finds its roots in the Middle Ages, when cities tried to organize the care for their poor, sick and needy more structurally.
In some cities the OCMW also administers collections of art, accumulated through the ages. The collections from Brussels (OCMW museum), Antwerp (Maagdenhuismusem), Bruges (Sint-Janshospitaal and Hospitaal Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Potterie), Lessen ( Hôpital Notre-Dame à la Rose) en Damme (Sint-Janshospitaal), Gent (Archives OCMW), Turnhout (Begijnhofmuseum), Vilvoorde (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekapel) and Kortrijk (Begijnhof) are all discussed and placed in a historical context.
The combined presentation of these collections, edited by CODART-member Daniël Christiaens, offers a view of the diversity and richness of these collections, the result of ages of collecting and caring for cultural heritage.