Karel Sano, department manager at Gevaert Photoproducts N.V., and Piet Baudouin, then curator of the Museum Sterckshof, organised the exhibition ‘125 Years of Photography’ at the Provincial Museum of Art Crafts Sterckshof in Deurne in 1965 with the support of the now merged Agfa-Gevaert. Following the success of this exhibition, the loaned artworks from the Agfa-Gevaert company were donated to the Province of Antwerp, together with the archive of the former publishing department of the company.
This collection represented the start of the permanent department within the museum that is dedicated to the history of photography. The management of this department was entrusted to the Foto & Film working committee under Karel Sano, who was succeeded by Dr Laurent Roosens. From 1973, the tasks undertaken by this working committee were gradually taken over by the scientific staff of the Museum Sterckshof.
Led by historian Roger Coenen, and later assisted by art historian Pool Andries, the camera, photography and library collections outgrew the available space in the Sterckshof. At the end of 1980, the department moved to an office building in the Karel Oomsstraat in Antwerp, where the name ‘Museum for Photography’ was first introduced. In 1986, the museum and its collections found a permanent home in the renovated Flanders warehouse on the Waalsekaai. Architect Georges Baines built a new wing to the warehouse, drastically increasing its capacity.
The year 2000 saw the start of another major renovation. After four years, the renovated Photo Museum opened with 1,400 m2 of exhibition space, two film theatres, a number of extra depots, an enlarged entrance hall and a workshop space. In 2009, the museum gained national recognition. Afterwards, its capacity was further increased with the construction of the Lieven Gevaertoren, the first low-energy photography depot in Europe.
Today, FOMU is a fully-fledged (inter)national heritage management institution that has not only grown in terms of infrastructure, but also in terms of operations and staff.