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First LUCAS Public Prize goes to Hugo Koning

Hugo Koning, an expert in Greek mythology, has won the Lucas Public Prize because he has brought his research to the attention of the general public in so many different ways. This is the first Public Prize awarded by the Leiden University Centre for Arts in Society (LUCAS). Hugo says with a smile: ‘I couldn’t actually find anything about this prize on the internet.’

Rick Honings (left), Hugo Koning (centre), holding the trophy, and Casper de Jonge (right).

Exceptionally active

Hugo is most proud of his new literary travel guide Het eiland van Pelops (‘The island of Pelops’). It describes Greece in various periods, such as the Byzantine era and World War 2. These periods are clearly visible when you are in Greece. ‘Take the ancient myths, for example. They happen at specific locations, and in the travel guide I try to place them in a meaningful context. But obviously I haven’t done it alone! Collaboration is extremely important in research. I wrote the book together with Hans Verheij. And it’s also very important to find a publisher who has confidence in you.’

‘His readable books and highly popular public lectures make research on Antiquity easily accessible to a vast audience of school students, high school teachers and people who love Greece.’

Hugo combines his work as a lecturer at the LUCAS with a position at Stanislas College in Delft, where he is vice-principal of the gymnasium (high school that teaches classical languages). He also writes examination compendia and accessible translations. Since 2018 he has additionally been a member of the national Board of Tests and Examinations (CvTE).

The Public Prize award committee further said that the good relationship between high school teaching of classical languages and the University is largely thanks to Hugo. In 2018 he published the examination compendium Een wankelbaar bezit. Herodotos over tirannie (‘An unstable possession: Herodotus on tyranny’; with Daniël Bartelds, Hugo Koning, Simon Veenman and Hans Verheij). 

Together with Casper de Jonge, he also organises the highly successful pub quiz Ken Uw Klassieken (‘Know your classics’), in which around 200 classics scholars and enthusiasts compete each year.

Ten nominees

Since 2018, the LUCAS has had an Impact Committee, consisting of Olga van Marion, Sara Polak, Astrid van Weyenberg, Andries Hiskes, Casper de Jonge and Rick Honings (general administrative member of the LUCAS Management Team). This Committee carefully considered the submitted nominations, of which there were many! In total there were 10 nominations, which clearly shows the rich abundance of the LUCAS institute, and what splendid initiatives and activities are created there. The other nominations were:

Nanne Timmer

As the editor, in 2017 Nanne compiled La Isla de Cuba: Twaalf Verhalen en een Revolutie (‘The island of Cuba: twelve stories and a revolution’), in which she worked with alumni for the translations. She engages in a project of this kind nearly every year, with the aim of introducing the Latin American culture to a Dutch audience, and the Dutch culture to a Spanish-speaking audience. An expression of the latter, for instance, is Nanne’s anthology in Spanish on the life and work of the Dutch artist Gerard Fieret, published in 2019.

Sigrid de Jong

Sigrid was asked by the National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) to be the guest curator of the exhibition Paestum ervaren (‘Experience Paestum’), which will open on 2 May 2019. This is thanks to her dissertation Rediscovering Architecture, which was published in 2014. The exhibition introduces this topic to a wider audience; it is also an excellent collaboration between the University and an important partner in the region: the National Museum of Antiquities.

Peter Verstraten

Since the summer of 2012, Peter Verstraten has been a member of the film committee that organises movie screenings six times a year in Het Ketelhuis Amsterdam and Louis Hartlooper Complex Utrecht under the title Psychoanalyse & film (‘Psychoanalysis & film’). An evening consists of an introductory lecture delivered by one of a number of varied guest speakers, followed by the movie and a discussion. Peter himself has given the introductory lecture several times, and since 2014 he has been the permanent moderator in Utrecht. These evenings are very well attended, and further evidence of their growing success is the fact that the programme has now also been extended to Lux Nijmegen and Lumière Maastricht.

Onderzoeksgroep Paul Smith

Paul Smith, together with his research group, organised the exhibition Fish & Fiction, which took place from September 2018 to January 2019 in Leiden University Library. This exhibition centred on our lasting fascination with fish and received considerable media attention. A beautiful catalogue was created for the exhibition (which can also be viewed online) and a special video was produced: Een draak van een vis (‘Making a dragon from a fish’).

Elizabeth den Hartog

The Art History study programme nominated Elizabeth den Hartog for the Public Prize 2019 because of the enthusiasm and energy she devotes to making medieval heritage accessible to a wider audience. Elizabeth gives public lectures throughout the Netherlands and far beyond at the invitation of heritage organisations, local councils, churches and other groups. She has written many books and articles, reaching a wide readership that far transcends the university world.

Editors of the Leiden Arts in Society Blog (Sophia Hendrikx, Merel Oudshoorn, Layla Seale, Lieke Smits, Tim Vergeer)

The Leiden Arts in Society Blog was launched nearly three years ago and is an initiative of the LUCAS PhD candidates. Some of the blogs are written by the PhD candidates themselves, but others are by the LUCAS staff members and guest bloggers. The intention is to inform a wider audience about the research conducted within the LUCAS. A new item is published every week and by now there are 140 posts. The most-read blog item attracted more than 6,000 page views.

Paul Hoftijzer

In 2000, Paul Hoftijzer was appointed as the curator of the Bibliotheca Thysiana (Rapenburg 25). The curator’s task is to execute the will of Johannes Thysius (1622-1653), the library’s founder, which included the stipulation that the books bequeathed by Thysius should be used for the ‘public service of study’. Since 2000, Hoftijzer has made every imaginable effort to fulfil the wish formulated in the will. For instance, it is estimated that in the period 2000-2019 he has given no fewer than 400 guided tours, which converts to contact with around 8,000 visitors. After a guided tour by Hoftijzer, one of these visitors has decreed in her will that her estate should go to this library.

Christoph Pieper and Susanna de Beer

After a trip to Rome, these two enthusiastic classics scholars – together with a group of equally enthusiastic Latin students – produced a literary travel guide: De vereeuwigde stad. Een literaire reisgids door het antieke Rome (2018) (‘The eternal city. A literary travel guide through Ancient Rome’). The book is also accompanied by an excellent website, www.devereeuwigdestad.nl. By using this website, visitors to Rome can walk to the various monuments with their phone or tablet, see live where they are on the map and read classical texts about the locations on-the-spot. The project was also highly innovative from the didactic point of view: two of the travel guide editors were students on the Research Master’s and the website was also developed and translated in close collaboration with students.

Jürgen K. Zangenberg

In the autumn of 2018, Jürgen Zangenberg provided his services as an expert in the four-part EO (religious TV station) documentary Jezus van Nazareth (‘Jesus of Nazareth’), a search for the places where Jesus is said to have lived. He played an important role in the entire production: he provided the editors with input on the subject matter, advised them on locations and established contacts on their behalf. But the most important aspect: he also appeared in front of the camera himself. In this way, he reached a large audience. The four episodes were broadcast by the NPO between 24 and 27 December 2018. That is to say: around Christmas, with the result of a large number of viewers.

About the LUCAS Public Prize

The LUCAS Public Prize is for researchers who appeal to an audience that is wider than the academic community. The Prize consists of 1000 euros, a trophy and eternal glory. Staff members of the LUCAS can nominate themselves, a research group or a colleague. 

Photo above: group photo by Nathalie Borst of the winner, together with the nominees 

Text: Rick Honings and Nathalie Borst. E-mail the editors

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