Liège names street after Hélène van Heule, Belgium’s first female museum curator
Sunday, 27 June 2021
The city of Liège will name one of its streets in the former Bavière hospital district after Belgium’s first female curator of a museum, Hélène van Heule, as part of its policy to feminise the public space.
In the 1930s, van Heule was the first Belgian woman to be appointed curator of a museum, Curtius and d’Ansembourg, and managed to keep many works of art safe during the war, safeguarding important elements of Liège’s heritage.
During the Second World War, she joined the resistance, and was part of a network to protect church bells from being taken by the Nazis, following a requisition order to melt them into cannons.
Due to van Heule’s actions, multiple bell confiscations were avoided: to keep them from the occupying forces, some pieces were hidden in railway carriages and others, including those of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, were disguised as “carillons,” which were exempt from dismantling.
During the liberation, it was also van Heule who, with others, organised the restitution of what had been confiscated and stored on Monsin Island.
The city of Liège has been working at “feminising” its public spaces for some time, as in February, four new streets in the Val Benoît area were already named after women who left their mark on the cultural or scientific scene.
It concerned French anthropologist and ethnologist Françoise Héritier; novelist, teacher, and a leading literary critic of the last century Émilie Noulet; and Jeanne Rademackers, from Limburg who was the first to obtain a university degree in pharmacy, among her exclusively male fellow students.