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Hortus receives remarkable inheritance of 5 million euros

The Leiden Hortus botanicus has received an inheritance of 5 million euros. 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 optimise 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 board of the Foundation will ensure that the money is used in accordance with 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 how they can be used  in the interests of biodiversity. ‘This gift will enable us to continue to develop new activities for our visitors,’ Keßler continued. ‘It will also help us to unlock the secrets of our collection more effectively and to make our knowledge of these collections more accessible.’

Carla van Steijn (r) was a loyal and engaged visitor to the Hortus botanicus. She was present at the re-opening of the tropical greenhouses in 2013. To the left, prefect of the Hortus Paul Kessler, centre Carel Stolker.
Carla van Steijn (r) was a loyal and engaged visitor to the Hortus botanicus. She was present at the re-opening of the tropical greenhouses in 2013. To the left, prefect of the Hortus Paul Kessler, centre Carel Stolker.

A loyal and engaged 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 closely involved in the botanical garden’s ups-and-downs, and often talked to the staff, the visitors and the Hortus management during her visits. She was also particularly keen on the issue of optimum accessibility and the 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 the renewal of the tropical glasshouses and the Clusius garden, information boards, the renewal of footpaths, 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 point in time 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.’

Biography Carla van Steijn

Carla Roberta van Steijn was born on 7 January 1925 in Arnhem, the daughter of Adolf Herman van Steijn and Emilie Karoline Freifrau von der Schulenburg. She grew up in The Hague, where her father was a civil court judge, and she lived in The Hague for most of her life.

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. Her interest in the city of Leiden had been encouraged by her father, who often brought her to visit the city. 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, including the Hortus botanicus.

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. She passed away on 12 March 2018 in Wassenaar.

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