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A farewell to Franck Smit: the humble hero of the University Museum

13 July 2023
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Franck Smit

This afternoon, on the occasion of his departure from the University of Groningen, Franck Smit (1956, Marum), senior curator of the University Museum, received an honour from mayor K.F. Schuiling. Smit was appointed Officer of the Order of Nassau. The ceremony was held in the Senate’s Chamber of the Academy Building of the UG.

A love for history

The history of the University of Groningen is the thread running through Franck Smit's career. During and especially after working hours, he went to extraordinary lengths to share his passion for the rich history of the UG with others. For example, he gave fascinating guided tours and lectures about the history of the University with great gusto, with his audience always hanging on his every word. It didn't matter if he was out with students, new colleagues or visiting dignitaries: he was able to convey his love for the University's history to everyone he showed around the most interesting nooks and crannies of his beloved Academy Building.

Stalwart curator

Smit studied History at the UG in the eighties. After a short time abroad at the Walburg Press in Zutphen, he returned in 1990 and worked for a total of fifteen years at the University Museum Groningen. In his first twelve years he rose from staff member to head curator, and in his last three years he returned as senior curator. During both periods he was known as a thorough, energetic and inventive curator, who left his mark. He was always coming up with new ideas for temporary exhibitions and completely renewed the museum’s permanent exhibition several times. The museum's collection of academic treasures has thus grown into one of the most beautiful and largest museum collections in the North and one of the largest scientific collections in the Netherlands. His most recent contribution to the museum was the publication of his book Panorama of Science at the end of 2022. In this book he inimitably brings the stories behind the wonderful, ingenious and rare collection of objects in the museum to life.

Publishing in his free time

Over the years, Smit amassed a wealth of knowledge about the museum's collection, which he generously recounted to others in person and through his publications. Because he had not been appointed a researcher, he made his more than sixty publications largely in his spare time. Thanks to his passion for history, he has published wonderful books about the history of the Royal Physics Society of Groningen, the Groningen University Fund and the Academy Building. He thus made sure that the University's rich history reached a wider audience. With equal enthusiasm he contributed after hours to the creation of numerous albums amicorum for departing administrators and the book on the occasion of the University's fourth centenary.

An unforgettable party

In 2002 he bade goodbye to his beloved University Museum for the first time to start working as a fund-raiser at the Alumni Relations and Fund-raising department and the Ubbo Emmius Fund Foundation. When the University started preparing for its four hundredth anniversary in 2012, he stepped forward as sponsor coordinator. Thanks to his dedication, commitment, organizational talent and enormous network of contacts, he was able to involve many parties from outside the UG in the anniversary. This made the centennial year of 2014 a party to remember for the University, the city and the region.

Social visibility

After this big party, Smit decided it was time for a new challenge and he started working as a consultant and project manager at the Research & Funding department. This step was also an excellent move: as a truly gifted networker, he managed to interest many parties from outside the University in the importance of education, research and creating value. He thus succeeded insignificantly increasing the University's visibility and social engagement. He was always looking to create links between the people and the University and to bring science closer to the citizen. This did not happen all by itself, but when there was friction, he used his talents to put things back on track. 

A man you could count on

This is true of everything he does, inside and outside the University. He volunteers in numerous clubs and associations focused on culture, history and literature. He was always able to drive important developments in the right direction, especially in difficult times. Whether it concerned the acoustics in the Oosterpoort, the future of the Groningen Congress Bureau, his commitment to the Rotary Club or the supervision of the sailing clipper Nicolaas Mulerius, the flagship of the UG in the Bruine Vloot: Franck Smit is a man you can count on. Without him, the Atlas van Beckeringh might never have been prepared and we might never have received the Gerrit van Houten Prize. Though he is too modest to congratulate himself for all this, the multifaceted way in which he has devoted himself with all his heart and knowledge over the years and decades has been invaluable to the University, the museum and everyone who has had the pleasure of working with him.

Last modified:14 July 2023 11.01 a.m.
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