Since its inception in 1959, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) has had a strong interest in establishing conservation-related educational activities in the Galapagos Islands. In fact, education was among the recommendations of the evaluation expedition to the archipelago organized by UNESCO in 1957.
Along these lines, in 1966, the by-then Director of the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS), Roger Perry, established the first environmental education program in the islands, in collaboration with the Education Supervisor of Santa Cruz Island, Lucio G. Saltos Gómez. This program, originally aimed at primary school teachers, was expanded years later to include local park rangers and naturalist guides.
Unfortunately, the CDRS, officially inaugurated two years earlier, had a workshop, a laboratory, the director's house, and a dock, but had no space in which to hold workshops or courses ― or in which to provide biodiversity- and conservation-related contents to early visitors and tourists.
The need for such a space materialized in a project: the creation of a conference center that would serve as an exhibition hall and a museum at the same time.
The Swiss Daniel Weber produced a series of plans in which this necessary building was projected. It would eventually be named "Van Straelen" in honor of the Belgian conservationist Victor Van Straelen, one of the minds behind the creation of the CDF and the CDRS. In 1970, Peter Kramer took over the direction of the Station and, under his leadership, construction works began, lasting until 1973. After the official opening that year, the Van Straelen building was used as a meeting center, a conference and exhibition hall, and a training space.
At the end of 1979, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the creation of the CDF, Ecuadorian Vice President Osvaldo Hurtado Larrea traveled to the Galapagos Islands and was received at the Van Straelen ― on Sunday, October 28 at 10:00 a.m., according to the official itinerary preserved in the CDF Archives. Dr. Alfredo Luna Tobar (Director of Territorial Sovereignty of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CDF Vice President) and Mr. Jacinto Gordillo, on behalf of the CDF staff, spoke at the ceremony.
A copy of a clipping from the newspaper El Universo, dated Saturday, October 27, 1979 and preserved in the CDF Archives, reports Hurtado's trip to Galapagos. Interestingly, the newspaper includes, on the same page, an image of the commemorative monument in which the CDRS' inaugural plaque was placed.
El Universo. Dr. Hurtado viaja a Galápagos. [Clip]. Guayaquil : El Universo, 1979. [N.d.] : n/ill. : [n.d.]. DDC 986. Well preserved.
Text & picture: Edgardo Civallero (email@example.com).
Publication date: 1 October 2023
Last update: 1 October 2023