Home > Philby-Ryckmans-Lippens Expedition Project: conservation, digitization, openness to research and the general public

Philby-Ryckmans-Lippens Expedition Project: conservation, digitization, openness to research and the general public


Supported by the Fonds Baillet-Latour managed by the Fondation Roi Baudouin, a vast project aims to preserve and enhance the archives of the Belgian Philby-Ryckmans-Lippens expedition, thanks to partial restoration and complete digitization. The uploading of digitized files and associated metadata will make the archives accessible to researchers, while a virtual exhibition will help the public discover the expedition. The archives will be accessible on the portal UCL Archives end 2019.


First scientific mission having systematically explored the Arabian Peninsula

The Philby-Ryckmans-Lippens expedition, conducted in 1951-1952 by the Université catholique de Louvain, is reputed to be the first scientific mission that has systematically explored the Arabian Peninsula in search of ancient inscriptions. It allowed the constitution of a unique documentary collection, revealing unknown elements of the history of pre-Islamic Arabia, and sometimes pieces that have disappeared.


Unpublished inscriptions

This fonds consists of the archives of Professors Gonzague and Jacques Ryckmans, specialists in studies devoted to ancient Arabia and remarkable figures of Belgian and international Orientalism. Great pioneers of these studies, among others on the basis of the results of the expedition of 1951-1952, their names remain linked to the knowledge of the South-Arabic language: decipherment of South-Arabic cursive; publication of the Sabean dictionary  whose preparatory notes are in the archive. Including unique data, in which UCLouvain is the holder of the world's largest archive in terms of copies of South Arabian and North Arabian inscriptions  hard to find in the field today and largely unpublished  the scientific importance this fund is internationally recognized.


Multiple expertise

This project is part of a multiple partnership, allowing consultation in terms of expertise and skills. Operational management is entrusted to the University Archives, which assume responsibility for the preservation and opening of the fund. It also involves the Centre d’Études orientalesInstitut orientaliste (CIOL)  whose two researchers Elynn Gorris and Perrine Pilette ensure the academic component (research and preparation of a scientific expedition in Saudi Arabia). The archives are also the subject of a script in the "Passion for researchers" module of the Musée L.


Project team

The project is coordinated by the University Archives.

  • Aurore François (Director of the UCLouvain Archives)
  • Caroline Derauw (project manager)
  • Véronique Fillieux
  • Amaury Dorban (digitization operator)
  • Perinne Pilette
  • Elynn Gorris



  • Fonds Inbev - Baillet-Latour
  • Center for Oriental Studies - Orientalist Institute (CIOL / UCLouvain)