MAS opens new permanent exhibition section: ‘Freight’ 

On 11 December 2021, the new permanent exhibition ‘Freight. About the port, the people and cargo‘ opens on the sixth floor of the Museum Aan de Stroom (Museum At the Stream, MAS) in Antwerp. This exhibition takes you into the colorful history of shipping and world trade.

“Where are the earliest roots of the port city of Antwerp? What cargoes have been going in and out of the city for centuries, and what do the container ships that call at the docks today carry? Who set sail in Antwerp, and with whom did these travellers meet on their overseas voyages? How did those encounters really work out? Was it equal trade or exploitation? Seafaring brought wealth to Antwerp, but what traces did it leave elsewhere?”, MAS says.

Antwerp is still one of the biggest European ports. Are the port and its trade ready for the future?  ‘Freight’ is the story of a port in the long history of globalization.

About the exhibition

The exhibition takes the visitor on a journey through the colorful history of seafaring and world trade. In addition to the many valuable ship models, there are also numerous utilitarian and art objects from the collection that show how goods, knowledge and contacts flowed in and out through the port of Antwerp for centuries.

From the very first roots of the port until today, freight, goods and knowledge went in and out of the city. People from all over the world came into contact with each other through shipping and world trade. This has made Antwerp the colorful and diverse city it is today. 

But how did those encounters through the ages really go? Was it equal trade or exploitation? Shipping brought wealth to Antwerp, but what traces did it leave elsewhere?

In the hall, visitors moor in six different ‘docks’ and learn more and more about the link between the city and the world. From the Vikings and the Middle Ages, the 16th century of Antwerp and the colonization period in Congo to contemporary world trade: the visitor travels in seven-mile boots through the history of the city and port. The beautiful ship models, works of art and utensils show how world trade and the city evolved over the centuries to what it is today.

The spatial design in which visitors travel along ‘docks’ is by scenographer Koen Bouvée and dramaturg Gerry de Mol.


Photographer and filmmaker Koen Broos provided impressive stylistic film images of people passing on cargo in every dock. The art installation ‘Carriers‘ makes the humanity of freight tangible. After all, it is people, the carriers, who transfer a ‘cargo’. In this way, cargo is also shown emotionally and intuitively and the different chapters of the time are distinguished and connected at the same time.

‘La Mouette’

At the end of the exhibition, the MAS screens the film ‘La Mouette‘, by Sébastien Segers from 2020. The film is based on the diary of his grandmother and reveals her life as a sailor’s wife, separated from her lover by the ocean. Segers enriches the story of this diary with contemporary images of timeless life on a container ship.

The exhibition also includes a fascinating fringe program with education, guided tours, workshops, holiday workshops and the installation ‘They have been laying around…‘, a project about whales by film maker Eva van Tongeren. Eva is fascinated by the presence of remains of prehistoric whales in the Antwerp soil. 

Together with young people from Het Bos and paleontologist Mark Borsselaers, she made an art project about these archaeological finds.

Practical information and tickets.

Art and museums in Antwerp

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