In search of TU Delft's heritage, Delta-editor Roos van Tongeren discovered nineteenth century model plants in the Science Centre.
There they stand, on top of the cupboard in Martinus Beijerinck's former laboratory in the Science Centre: the model plants manufactured by Brendel. The oldest date back to 1870. They were produced to facilitate teaching, since models are more illustrative to work with than images. In addition to the model plants, TU Delft boasts the only complete catalogue from which model plants by the manufacturer Brendel could be ordered. The catalogue, dating from 1913-14, is no bigger than an A5 notebook, but it is such an exceptional item that the Director of the botanical gardens in Berlin travelled all the way to Delft just to see it.
'It takes me at least three hours to put them back together again'
Some of the models are made from papier mâché and others from Bakelite, the predecessor of plastic. Their age can be determined by their feet – the round wooden ones being the oldest, the square ones somewhat younger and the green squares the most recent. They consist of different components and can be completely taken apart. "But I don't do that anymore," says Lesley Robertson, curator of the Beijerinck room. "It takes me at least three hours to put them back together again!" At present, the Beijerinck room can only be visited by appointment, but from the end of this year it will be open to the public during the Science Centre's regular opening hours.