Universeum 2020

Universeum Annual Conference 2020

22-26 June 2020

Université Libre de Bruxelles, KU Leuven, Belgium



The theme of the 2020 Universeum Annual Conference in Belgium will be :

University museums and collections in the vanguard of contemporary societal debates

This main theme echoed the debate on the definition of museum in ICOM community.  During the 2020 Universeum Annual Conference in Belgium, we would like to continue this debate and focus it specifically in relation to university museums (U-museums) and collections, questioning their role as actor of social and political change on one hand ; and how they deal with the challenges of their past on a second hand? 

Read more in the full Call for Papers.

Abstract template

We invite you to contribute to this collective reflection and submit your abstract  to the following email address using the abstract template by Friday 28 February 2020.

Contact: universeum2020@ulb.be

Programme Committee :

Nathalie Nyst, Université Libre de Bruxelles – ULB (Belgium), Chair

Geert Vanpaemel, KU Leuven (Belgium), Vice-chair

Frédérique Andry-Cazin, Sorbonne University (France)

Esther Boeles, University of Amsterdam (NL)

Mélanie Cornelis, Université de Liège – ULiège (Belgium)

Marjan Doom, Ghent Universiteit (Belgium)

Maria Economou, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow (UK)

Marlen Mouliou, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece)

Sébastien Soubiran, Jardin des sciences, University of Strasbourg (France)

Kevin Troch, Université de Mons – UMONS (Belgium)

Finding Betsie! In search of an elephant skull

At one time in its history, the Zoology Collection of the Ghent University Museum had the skull of ‘Betsie’, a locally most famous elephant of the former Ghent Zoo (1851-1904). During this period many cadavers of animals were transferred to our collection for educational purposes. But when the Ghent Zoo presented the university with the cadaver of Betsie who died in the winter of 1887-1888, the university thought it to be too expensive to process. The zoo then decided to have only the skull cleaned for their own little museum. When the Zoo went bankrupt in 1904, the Zoology Collection bought the skull at the public sale of all the Zoo’s assets.
This skull is of enormous cultural and historic value for the City of Ghent and its University. But sadly enough, not knowing what it was at the time, the skull was traded for other skull with a person called ‘Jan Cools’. When I became the curator of the Collection, and when I learned what the skull was, I tried to talk with Jan Cools who had already sold it to someone in England or even Canada, to ask him to get me the address. He promised to do so, but sadly enough he died two days later. So yet again, a dead end.
2017 is a triple anniversary: the Ghent university and the Zoology Collection are 200 years old, and I also this year I am a curator of this Collection for 20 years. It would be great to get Betsie back home for this anniversary.
So now hear my appeal: please, please, help us find back the skull of the elephant Betsie, so we can bring her back home. If anyone recognizes parts of this story or the name Jan Cools, please contact me at dominick.verschelde@ugent.be; also read the extended story here

Dominick Verschelde

Zoology Collection, Ghent University