'Gulden Boek' of the city of Antwerp, 1866-1892.

Fragment of the 'Guldenboek' of the city, containing the autographs of the Conference participants

The conference attendees were welcomed at the Antwerp City Hall on August 13th. It was quite a spectacle; the city government was almost entirely present. The party met at the newly renovated ceremonial hall, where rousing speeches were made. Delegates of the societies thanked the city government and the organisation for their hospitality and effort.

Around 100 people signed the Guldenboek of the city. But, at a social event as this, a lot of invitees did not really participate at the Conference. They were there to support the cause and mostly to be seen and to 'network'. Mostly local and provincial politicians attended as 'extras'.

How many people actually attended the Conference is hard to say. Through the proceedings we can see that only 62 people spoke - either to present an idea, or to respond to one. This shows that it was a rather small assembly. The majority (around 35%) of the speakers was Belgian. The French made a good effort with 19 people (around 30%) who took the floor. Small groups from the Netherlands, England, Germany and Austria-Hungary also made a contribution. The rest were lone speakers from Brazil, Russia, Spain and the United States.

The Conference committee also permitted papers of people who were not present to be read by somebody else. This way more than 20 people got to present something.

It would be wrong to presume that only 62 people attended the Conference. Members of the organising committee could not always participate. Other people chose to keep silent, such as the local Antwerp teacher Haegens for, who chose to only participate by letter.

Although it was a small conference, a lot of people supported it. These are the so-called 'members'. They paid a membership fee and were called upon to submit topics for the programme. Around 600 people from 20 countries made up this list. A lot of them never had the intention of coming to Antwerp, mostly because their expertise was something other than geography and they gad nothing relevant to add to the discussion. But other people could not make the trip for personal or practical reasons.