ALMEN – The exhibition on Winand Staring (1808-1877), founder of Dutch geology and agronomy, was opened on Saturday afternoon in Almen by… Winand Staring.
By Sander Grootendorst
Dressed in a wig and fake beard, the distant descendant and namesake of the man whose life and work will be central to the STAAL museum in the coming months addressed the public. A comic imitation of his ancestor, who at the end of his speech had to say that his great-great-grandson should reveal the picture on the wall of the museum. “Winand, where are you?”
After which he removed his wig and beard to remove the canvas with his sister Jennine Staring and museum director Pien Pon for a bronze plaque depicting his ancestor. “The board was made possible by our sister Anneke, who unfortunately died in September.”
Winand Staring after the unveiling of the plaque.
The group then entered the museum and immediately jumped over the first geological map of the Netherlands: it has been placed on the floor as part of the exhibition. Funny effect that visitors have to bend their knees to see the museum object. Winand Staring is the creator of the first map.
Staring’s geological map of the Netherlands is depicted on the floor of the museum STAAL.
The participants had learned a lot about this Winand prior to the opening. His father ACW Staring enjoys greater fame, partly because of the opening line of his poem The main farmer: ‘Everyone knows where Almensch church is’. In that church, opposite the museum, experts had informed extensively and passionately about Winand and his actions. Winand and Jennine, whose descendants currently live at Wildenborch, had received the first copies of the exhibition catalog from Pien Pon.
Winand and Jennine Staring receive the first copy of the exhibition catalog from museum director Pien Pon.
There are clear interfaces between geology and agronomy; in Winand’s nineteenth century they formed yet another whole. He conducted his research to gather scientific knowledge and find practical agricultural solutions. Michiel van der Meulen, Head of Geology at TNO, spoke about the creation of the first geological map of the Netherlands. Pioneering work, because until then little more was available than a vague map stating that mammal fossils had been found in the lowlands. Sjoukje Heimovaara, chairman of the board of Wageningen University, discussed the importance of Winand Staring for agricultural education, also for children from poor families – in doing so he followed in the footsteps of ACW, which had set up a school at Wildenborch. A tip to his speed, that Winand.
It is probably less well known among Achterhoekers that the name Staring lives on in various other places in the country, for example in the Wageningse Staringgebouw. Professor of soil chemistry and Winand expert Rob Comans took the audience on a recent journey of discovery into Winand’s part in the establishment of the National Agricultural School, the current University of Wageningen. His role appears to have been crucial, even writing a lobbying letter to a former MP.
In his opening speech, great-great-grandson Winand, dressed as a distant ancestor, summed up the speeches in a witty way. The fact that he then reached this far was due, among other things, to his “excellent training” at Wildenborch. He attributed to himself “a certain determination”: “Not only in scientific results, but also in serving a public interest.” “My importance to geology and agriculture has reached almost mythical proportions, but I leave the assessment to those who continue my work. . . Personally, I am most pleased with the new hand plow which eases the work of so many farmers.”
Coincidentally, right at these words, a tractor drove noisily along the Dorpsstraat.
“I will also visit my beloved De Boekhorst (the country estate in Klein Dochteren where the geologist lived, SG). Grateful that the new resident, Pieter van Druten, has spruced things up a bit. And of course I would like to thank Pien Pon, who makes the Achterhoek visible to all of us around my father Anthony’s poems. The museum now even has an exhibition dedicated to me and my life’s work: Earth.” Applause!
Grandpa Winand would have been proud of his great-great-grandson.
Ten thousand visitors
The exhibition ‘Founder’ about Winand Carel Hugo Staring is open until 26 March 2023. It is the replacement for the exhibition about the artist Jeanne Bieruma Oosting. Museum director Pien Pon said it has attracted no fewer than 10,000 visitors. Drawings by Winand can be seen as part of the new exhibition. Great emphasis is placed on the soil layers that occur in the Netherlands. You can not only look at them, you can also feel and examine them. Kinderzolder is full of dinosaurs especially for children. What really happened to the earth before the dinosaurs roamed it?