The history of the UG should be preserved, say academics

A group of academics wants to breathe new life into the Centre for University History and Science Studies (Centrum voor Universiteitsgeschiedenis en Wetenschapsstudies, or CUW). The centre was slowly sinking into oblivion after university historian Klaas van Berkel had retired. 

‘You have to be able to show how knowledge is gained, especially now that there’s this whole discussion about scientific knowledge and academic freedom’, says Maarten Derksen. ‘It’s so much more than neutral observation and documentation. It’s important to show this rather than just tell people that we have the facts because we’re scientists.’

But when Van Berkel, who wrote an influential book on the UG during the Second World War as well as three absolute units of books that cover the entire history of the Groningen university from its foundation in 1614 to 2021, retired in 2020, the study of university history was at risk of being forgotten.

Van Berkel did much more than passively study history. He served as the university’s memory and conscience, founding the CUW in an effort to preserve and spread the university’s values.

Bringing people together

Psychology lecturer Derksen, Studium Generale programme maker Annelies Noordhof-Hoorn and a few other enthusiasts decided his work was too important to lose. They’re now working to breathe new life into the CUW. 

‘The people that are working on the history of the university and science aren’t in the same place; they’re spread out over the university’, says Noordhof-Hoorn. ‘The people who are interested in the project simply aren’t talking to each other. The CUW wants to bring them together.’

The group wants to preserve the history of the university, publish research, and organise events. They also want to involve people from outside the UG in the centre, through classes or other events. 


‘It’s also about actually creating knowledge’, says Noordhof-Hoorn. ‘During the pandemic, for example, people had no insight into the process of Covid vaccines research, which made it look like the vaccines suddenly appeared, when in fact, they were based on years and years of existing research.’

Getting to share that knowledge was important for her, as was zooming out on modern developments. ‘People tend to think that things that happen are unique. But if you look back at history, it’s usually nothing new. People have individual histories, too. Everything they do is based on something that happened in the past, and the same applied to science. I really enjoy that.’

Lot of work

The CUW was founded on these principles, but mainly consisted of ‘a group of people that went out to dinner once a year’, Derksen jokes. The people currently working on it are trying to involve new people in the centre, because there’s a lot of work to be done.

‘We need a website, we need to organise events, create partnerships, find funds. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who are interested, from students to professors; a great group of people have said they want to help’, says Derksen.

Anyone who’d like to join is free to contact him, he says; the more, the merrier. ‘We want to really go big this time.


Notify of

De spelregels voor reageren: blijf on topic, geen herhalingen, geen URLs, geen haatspraak en beledigingen. / The rules for commenting: stay on topic, don't repeat yourself, no URLs, no hate speech or insults.


0 Reacties
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments