Surveying instruments back at school

The historic collection of surveying instruments was moved to the tower room of Kanaalweg 4 last summer. The objects have returned to the place where surveying in the Netherlands started.

"We‘re keeping fit", says former surveyor Wim van Beusekom. The four volunteers from Stichting De Hollandse Cirkel have to climb 98 steps before they can work on the old instruments. Yet, they couldn’t have asked for a better place than the top floor of this building. Student housing company DUWO, which uses the rest of the building as office space, has offered them the top floor together with KNVWS, the royal association for meteorology and astronomy.

This building at the Kanaalweg 4 was the cradle for geodesy in the Netherlands and was used as such until 1975. It was the first building in the TU Delft quarter across the river Schie as it was commissioned in 1895.

Chris Nelis, one of the other volunteers, graduated in this building in 1974. He remembers the long open halls where students learned to master their levels and theodolites (instrument for measuring angles in surveying).

Now such historic instruments have returned to this building where it all began. The volunteers are busy finishing the arrangements. A number of portraits need to be placed and so does the refurbished furniture of former professor and Prime Minister Prof. Schermerhorn. The characteristic dome on top of the building is being furnished as well. An antique white-painted telescope of about 2 metres long is waiting to be installed on its pedestal. If funds emerge, the volunteers would like to have the dome repaired to make it functional again.

"Up until 1930, the Dutch time measurement was calibrated against astronomical measurements done here and in Leiden", says Van Beusekom. The average value of both measurements determined the real time in the Netherlands before the arrival of the atomic clock.