Who absconded with the ornament off the Academy building’s facade?

Who absconded with the Academy building ornament?

‘I think the handwriting is a man’s’, says University Museum director Arjen Dijkstra. He picks up the box that contained the returned ornament and shows us the note that came with it. The thief clearly wants to stay anonymous. But can they?

1 September om 12:35 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 1 September 2020
om 13:51 uur.
September 1 at 12:35 PM.
Last modified on September 1, 2020
at 13:51 PM.


René Hoogschagen

Door René Hoogschagen

1 September om 12:35 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 1 September 2020
om 13:51 uur.
René Hoogschagen

By René Hoogschagen

September 1 at 12:35 PM.
Last modified on September 1, 2020
at 13:51 PM.
René Hoogschagen

René Hoogschagen

Freelancejournalist
Volledig bio
Freelance journalist
Full bio

The package we’re talking about is the same one that rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga recently tweeted about, thanking the sender, who wrote that twenty years ago, they’d accidentally broken an ornamental piece off the Academy building’s facade. They were now returning it, with their apologies.

Pigeon food

The handwriting does look masculine: angular and messy. The thief writes that they were a student in the year 2000, which would make them in their late thirties or early forties. However, they refer to the UG as RUG rather than RuG, which is how it was written back then. Could that mean they worked at the university after they’d graduated, or that they were connected in some other way?

Let’s look at the box the ornament was shipped in. An old label reveals it once contained pigeon food, specifically for turtledoves. A different label says the package was shipped at 11:34 a.m. on July 17. It took another month before Wijmenga got around to opening it, since she wasn’t in her office because of the pandemic and because it was the summer holiday. The date doesn’t tell us much, unfortunately; pretty much everyone had time to clean out their attic in the middle of summer.

The ornament itself is made of heavy iron. ‘These things don’t just come off by themselves. It takes some doing’, says Dijkstra. The leaves and the protrusion in the middle are bent. Dijkstra says the thief’s claim that the ornament simply broke off when they were swinging from it is nonsense.

Renovation

Last year, it was discovered that the Minerva statue on the Academy building was holding a broom instead of a spear and that Mathematica was missing her gold compass. It’s entirely possible these things were stolen during the same renovations in 2000. Perhaps the thieves will return those, as well. ‘That would be great’, says Dijkstra. ‘I’d love to have them back.’

The museum director doesn’t really know how to feel about the whole thing. Recreating the ornament probably cost at least a thousand euros, he thinks. ‘Then again, it’s just one of those things that happen in a student town.’ It’s a little funny, he supposes. ‘We don’t all have to be goody two shoes, obviously. But I don’t encourage this kind of behaviour.’

Dijkstra saw an opportunity for an exhibition. The ornament will be displayed in the University Museum’s window, together with Minerva’s broom, among other items.

Have you ever stolen anything from the uni? Bring your object to the UKrant offices and tell us all about it!

The note

Dear sir/madam,

When I was a student at the UG around the year 2000, I did something very stupid: the Academy building was being renovated and one night I climbed the scaffolding (I was following a drunken friend in an attempt to save him from certain death). At the top, I somehow thought it was a good idea to swing from an iron ornament. The thing broke off and I was so scared that I took it home with me. The next day, I woke up with the ornament next to my pillow. I felt so guilty that I kept it for the past 20 years. I am now returning it to you. I’m sorry for the inconvenience…

Best wishes, 

An Alumnus

Nederlands