The Hortus botanicus Leiden has received an inheritance of 5 million Euro. This is a gift from the estate of Carla van Steijn, who was a loyal visitor to the Hortus during her lifetime. In accordance with her wishes, the gift will be used for new activities and to optimize accessibility for less-able-bodied visitors.
The inheritance will be incorporated in a new trust fund, the Carla van Steijn Fund. The fund will be managed by the Friends of the Leiden Hortus Foundation (Stichting Vrienden van de Leidse Hortus); the Foundation board will ensure that the money is used in accordance with the Carla van Steijn’s wishes.
Activities to share knowledge with the general public
‘We are both happy and honoured that Carla van Steijn felt so much a part of the Hortus that she included the foundation in her will’ said Paul Keßler, prefect of the Hortus. ‘In recent years the Hortus has already initiated a number of innovative activities to share knowledge with the general public about how plants grow, their protection and the use of plants in the interests of biodiversity. ‘This gift will enable us to continue to develop new activities for our visitors,’ according to Keßler. ‘Furthermore, it also will also enable us to unlock the secrets of our collection even better and to make our knowledge of these collections more accessible.’
A loyal and dedicated visitor to the Hortus
Carla van Steijn was a frequent visitor to the Hortus, and supported the botanical garden as a Friend of the Hortus for many years. She was deeply involved in the botanical garden’s ups-and-downs, and often talked to the personnel, the visitors and the Hortus management during her visits. She was also particularly keen on the subject of optimum accessibility and provision of information for people with disabilities. She continued to visit the Hortus when she was of advanced years, even though she had difficulty walking, and she enjoyed these visits very much.
She had already supported the Hortus during her lifetime with a number of generous, anonymous donations, including gifts for renewal of the tropical glasshouses and the Clusius garden, information boards, renewal of paths, and the recent renovation of the Winter Garden and the entrance building. She herself always wanted to stay in the background, but her name will now be associated with her gifts to do justice to her special significance for the Hortus.
The Carla van Steijn Fund will support innovation
The inauguration of the Carla van Steijn Fund is a very special moment for the Friends of the Leiden Hortus Foundation. ‘We are delighted with this gift,’ said John van Ruiten, president of the Foundation. Van Ruiten hopes that the initiation of this fund, focusing on innovation, will encourage others to support this cause. ‘Of course the current adopters and the more than 1,800 Friends of the Hortus are still tremendously important; they enable us to continue to support the Hortus.’
Concise biography of Carla van Steijn
Carla Roberta van Steijn was born on 7 January 1925 in Arnhem as the daughter of Adolf Herman van Steijn and Emilie Karoline Freifrau von der Schulenburg. She was followed a few years later by a brother, Gerard, to whom she would become very attached. She grew up in The Hague, the Netherlands, where her father was a civil court judge and she lived in The Hague for most of her life.
She would have loved to go to university, but to her great sadness the Second World War prevented this from happening. Instead she went to an all-girls higher civil school and when the war ended she trained to become a doctor’s assistant, a profession that she then practised for a while. After that she worked as the director of Dorrepaal House in Voorschoten near The Hague. This was a shelter for Dutch people returning from the former Dutch colony of Indonesia and who had very little money; they could stay there for three months. Then, after studying again, she became the librarian at the Ladies Reading Room on the Nassauplein in The Hague.
Her interest in the city of Leiden had been encouraged by her father, who often took her there. When she was older she lived in Leiden for about ten years, and during this period she became closely involved in a number of cultural institutions in the city.
She had a wide interest in culture and was very knowledgeable. As a young woman she was a keen horse rider. She spoke several languages, travelled extensively, was well-read and had a passionate interest in music, art, architecture and nature. Music, in particular, played an important role in her life; her father, who died young, had really wanted to become a musical conductor and he was a great source of inspiration to her. She herself became a talented amateur pianist.
Carla van Steijn, who deliberately chose not to get married, was very generous. During her long life she provided significant contributions to many institutions, both cultural and social.
Carla van Steijn passed away on 12 March 2018 in Wassenaar, near The Hague.