Winand Staring (1808-1877) is considered the founder of geology and agronomy in the Netherlands. A lesser-known fact is that he was also one of the founders of the National Agricultural College in Wageningen and thus of what is now Wageningen University & Research. In the exhibition, he is candidly portrayed as WUR’s founding father.
The person behind this honorary title is WUR professor Rob Comans (Soil Chemistry and Chemical Soil Quality), who has been investigating Staring’s role in the inception of higher agricultural education in Wageningen. Comans revealed his theory in an article in Resource in light of the celebrations of WUR’s centennial.
Comans is convinced that Staring was behind the choice of Wageningen as the location for the National Agricultural College. In a lecture preceding the opening of the exhibition, he unveiled the maps. He and Wageningen publicist Leo Klep are working on a book about Staring and his impact on WUR.
That this impact is considerable was confirmed by the presence of executive board president Sjoukje Heimovaara at the opening of the exhibition. In her contribution, she blew the dust off the so-called Staring Fonds. The fund provided grants to students and later merged with other funds to become part of University Fund Wageningen (UFW), which is still in operation today.
Museum Staal (STAring in ALmen) is devoted mainly to poet ACW Staring (1767-1840), Winand’s father. The family resided in the area around Vorden. In the new exhibition, the focus is on the son’s work. The main eyecatcher is an enormous reproduction of the first Geological Map of the Netherlands, made by Staring. The map is laid out on the floor, and visitors van walk over it.
The much-cited letter addressed to the municipal executive of Wageningen in 1872, in which Staring recommends Wageningen for its suitability as a location for the agricultural college, is, of course, also exhibited. The city is, according to Staring, sufficiently small to ensure the students are not exposed to too strong a development of ‘urban urges and inclinations’.
The exhibition ‘Winand Staring van de Boekhorst, agronomist and geologist’ will remain in the Staal Museum in Almen until 26 March 2023.