What exactly is the use of a soil museum? Jantiene Baartman can give you an enthusiastic answer to that question as she became a soil scientist because of the soil museum.
One visit to the ISRIC museum, then at Duivendaal, was all it took. ‘All those different soils, all those different colours. WOW!’ Now she is a researcher in the Soil Physics and Land Management group.
Baartman was one of the four speakers last Monday who enlivened the opening of the new World Soil Museum with their personal soil stories. The other three were former professor Salomon Kroonenberg, Netherlands Institute of Ecology director Louise Vet and researcher Paul Farris (University of Portsmouth), a frequent visitor to the museum. The keynote speaker was John Liu, an American of Chinese origin and a former journalist, filmmaker and — above all — environmental activist.
Liu, always dressed in explorer’s khaki including hat, has built up a reputation as a campaigner for the restoration of ecosystems destroyed by humans (www.ecosystemreturn.org). The foundation of the same name is based in Amsterdam.
The common message from all the speakers was clear: no life without soil. That is also the message the World Soil Museum wants to get across. The museum was set up in 1966, the year in which ISRIC was founded, at Utrecht University. Eleven years later, the museum moved to Duivendaal in Wageningen, where it remained until the premises were judged a fire hazard three years ago. A room in Gaia has recently been functioning as an emergency museum.
ESG director Kees Slingerland handed the museum a copy of the bronze plaque on Winand Staring’s grave in Lochem. Staring is the founding father of soil science in the Netherlands.
Soil profiles from all over the world are still a prominent element in the museum. But apart from that, modern technology dominates, with the digital map table-top as the central eye-catching element surrounded by stations explaining topics such as food security, climate and land use. Visitor numbers are proof that this new approach works: there were as many visitors in the first quarter as in nine months of the previous year.