The story of Ghent
STAM's permanent exhibition is 'The Story of Ghent'. A chronological trail takes you on a trip through time, making Ghent...permanent
Ghent is a city of many faces – it’s a historical city, university city, port city and city of culture. Its appearance has not been defined by any one dominant period or rule. Ghent is a city of all times. And it’s still constantly in motion.
No single period or power left its stamp on Ghent. Ghent is a city of all times, a university city, a seaport, a historical city and a city of culture.
STAM is an instrument for deciphering the city layer by layer and making it legible. STAM reveals the fabric of the old city by dissecting the accumulated years of history. It also holds up to view the chalk lines of future developments.
Four views of Ghent have been digitalized, enabling you to travel through time and the evolving city.
The Panoramic View of Ghent dates from 1534 and is the oldest painted picture of the city. The second map dates from 1641. It was made by Henricus Hondius and is normally kept in the university library. The 1912 Ground Plan of Ghent derives from the archives of the Department of Roads, Bridges and Waterways. The fourth 'map' is an aerial photograph of modern-day Ghent.
Although the main point here is the earliest core of the city, a great many relics also indicate the presence of man in the period prior to this. Stone sculptures and illuminated manuscripts illustrate the importance and vigour of the rival abbeys of St Bavo and St Peter.
In the Middle Ages, Ghent was one of the biggest cities in Europe. The wealth amassed as a result of the cloth trade and grain storage was made manifest in the construction of large stone houses, guild houses and monumental public buildings. Its increasing self-confidence led equally to long-term conflicts with the centralisation policies of the counts, dukes and emperors.
Paintings, procession torches, engravings and suchlike are reminders of the great festivities organised for countless events such as the joyous entry of monarchs into the city. The relative political calm and the return of economic growth after turbulent times stimulated building activity.
Onder invloed van de industrialisering barstte de middeleeuwse stad definitief uit haar voegen. De stadspoorten verdwenen en buiten de (voormalige) stadsomwallingen groeiden diverse nieuwe wijken. Grootschalige infrastructuurwerken moesten die evolutie in goede banen leiden. Ook onderging het historische centrum een grondige transformatie.
The 1913 World Fair in Ghent was held in the Sint-Pieters-Aalst district, behind Ghent Sint-Pieters station, and in Citadelpark. The exhibition halls were temporary constructions and little of them has survived. The area was divided into lots and turned into a residential district. STAM developed a virtual model which shows what it looked like in 1913.
One theme - bigger and even more famous than Ghent itself - is singled out for special attention: ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’. The focus is on the theft of ‘The Just Judges’ panel. The hunt for the missing panel is still on and introduces a light-hearted note.
from grey factory town to bustling regional centre
Ghent boasted around 160,000 inhabitants between 1900 and 1950, but that number started to decline in the 1960s as young families began to move out into the new, greener suburbs. Ghent merged with ten peripheral municipalities in early 1977. The new conurbation had over a quarter of a million residents, yet the downward population trend continued in the years that followed and an upturn only began after 2000.
The exodus from the city was chiefly the result of urban decay: large parts of Ghent were dominated in the 1950s and 60s by factories and run-down residential districts. The focus on urban regeneration intensified in the late 1970s, although it was only in the 1990s that the results began to show. A 1997 mobility plan that largely banished cars from the city centre also encouraged a revival.
Textile and garment production set the tone for industrial Ghent until the 1960s. In the years that followed, however, the industry steadily lost ground to steel-making and metalworking. The arrival in 1962 of Sidmar – the first steel company in Flanders – gave a particular boost to industrial development in the port area. Activities in that zone have concentrated in recent years on the automotive, steel and chemical industries. The port accounts for 70,000 jobs and 300 port-related enterprises, representing 15% of the employment market in the Province of East Flanders.
The city has developed in recent decades into a regional centre for services, education, health, culture and recreation. And with over 60,000 students in university and higher education, Ghent is the leading Flemish city of learning. The presence of the university and colleges encourages the knowledge industry and adds creative impetus to the entire cultural sector.