Organisation - June 1, 2018

Exhibition displays scientific heritage

Roelof Kleis

A lot of universities have their own museums. Wageningen doesn’t, but De Casteelse Poort Museum is filling the gap for the time being. An exhibition called Made for City and World is intended as a gift to the town to mark the university’s centenary.

Visitors to the exhibition about 100 years of WUR study Hofstee’s cartophoot. ©Guy Ackermans

The title resonates with the famous papal blessing Urbi et Orbi: for the city and the world. And Wageningen University is certainly a blessing for this city, said chair of the museum’s board Jelle Vervloet (ex-professor of Historical Geography) at the opening last Sunday. ‘What would Wageningen be without WUR?’ he asked.

The exhibition itself barely touches on that question. The creators focused their efforts on showing the fruits of 100 years of Wageningen research. The exhibition pins this history to 15 remarkable people, most of them the founders of their chair groups, such as Van Uven (Mathematics), Politiek (Livestock breeding), Sprenger (Horticultural Plant Breeding), and Bijhouwer (Garden and Landscape Architecture).

There are two women among the 14 leading lights: Mien Visser, the first woman professor (Domestic Science) and teacher/author Iteke Weede (known for her work on issues related to emancipation). The only still-active scientist with his own place in the exhibition is aquatic ecologist Marten Scheffer, with his tipping point theory. His ‘shop window’ is also the only one to feature moving images.

In spite of the somewhat static nature of the exhibition, there is plenty to entertain the visitor. One eye-catcher is Hofstee’s ‘cartophoot’, a forerunner of today’sinfographics. Hofstee became Wageningen’s first professor of Sociology in 1946. He worked with a jigsaw puzzle manufacturer to develop a map of the Netherlands with 800 pieces, each representing a municipality of that era. So the cartophoot is really a kind of flexible jigsaw puzzle, with every municipality available in different versions, with variations of colour and shading.

This is the ultimate in scientific heritage. As are the Edelman soil drill, Sprenger’s apple varieties, and Bijhouwer’s park designs, all of which are on display too. The exhibition is the tip of an iceberg. A tip that whets the appetite for more.

Made for City and World, De Casteelse Poort Museum, Bowlespark 1a. Running until 28 October. Opening times: Tuesday to Friday 11.00-17.00; Saturday and Sunday 13.00-17.00.