From dust till dawn: Geert restores his father's collection to glory


There is (much) more to an (ex-)colleague than meets the eye. Although it's often worth showing off, some remain unnoticed. This week: life after Sofico.

​​​​​​​Q1: Geert, since you retired in early 2020, we hired a few dozen new colleagues. A brief introduction for the new Soficans who don’t know who you are?  

"Oops. ? A long time ago, I was one of the first Soficans when Sofico was started back in 1988. We were 3 at that time and located in the center of Ghent. Back then, we had a wholesale application for car parts. When Piet joined (I remember we were on our bare knees in a pub asking him), we started developing Leasebase. Later on, we moved to Merelbeke and from there to the current offices in Zwijnaarde. In the beginning, I was mostly programming for the wholesale application in C. Databases hardly existed or were too expensive for our customers. Afterward, I was involved with the helpdesk team and later on, our internal IT systems and infrastructure."

Q2: People often plan to travel after their retirement, but you retired in the middle of the first lockdown. Did you find a ‘pet project’ to work on instead? 

"That was the initial plan indeed. The only time I took 2 whole weeks of vacation was for my honeymoon in 1990 and I promised my wife that we would take a longer holiday when I retired. She always wanted to visit Ushuaia and we could combine that with a visit to my family in Paraguay. Due to covid, this dream vacation was replaced by 4 days in June at a friend’s holiday home in France, where I mowed the lawn since nobody had been there since the start of the lockdown in March... "

"As there was no chance of travel, I started the long-overdue inventory of my late father, Robert’s collection. My father started collecting scientific measuring instruments around 1970 but his collection also includes some strange instruments, scales, curiosa, motors, and even steam machines. The smallest item is an old 4 cm sundial, the biggest was a steam roller that stood in the garden and weighed 18 tons." 

"Since he passed away in 2012, his collection was gathering dust, and nobody could enjoy it. In November last year, I got started on it and it has been a 7-days-a-week job. So that’s one thing that did not change: in the morning I tell my wife I am going to my office."

My father started collecting scientific measuring instruments around 1970.


2021-03-19 11_12_17-The Speedy Moisture Tester (0348) — Robert's collection of antique scientific in




Q3: So, we are clearly not talking about a handful of antiques displayed in a cupboard. This is quite a sizeable collection? 

"Happily, my father left some old spreadsheets with some info. I did not like the number of lines in his spreadsheet: 998 … Luckily, he had sold or given away some items over the years. My guestimate is that there are some 400 items left in the collection. Most of them are stored in the garage attic. The proceeding is always the same: I get something from the attic and on to the workbench for cleanup (some petrol for the metallic parts, some wood wax for the wooden parts). After that, it goes to the photography table to take pictures."

"Then I search through my father’s files for information, and I spend a lot of time googling for more info. When my small office is full, it is time to start packing to make room again. As most items are quite fragile, this is the most time-consuming. The final step is to edit the photos and put them on the Squarespace website."





 Q4: You made this website, to showcase the collection and to ‘crowdsource’ the effort of completing any missing information like the maker, year, or function.  

"That is indeed the main goal. Remember that for us google is our friend, but in the 1900s, the only way to get information was to go to the library and search through books. Even with google, there are still a lot of items where I can hardly find any information. All the items are listed in detail on the websiteIf anyone has any information or any leads on where to find info, they can leave a comment.

Remember that for us google is our friend, but in the 1900s, the only way to get information was to go to the library and search through books.


Q5: Do you have any future plans for the collection? Are you planning to sell or display it?  

"As I do not have enough room, the plan is to sell the collection. Or maybe donate to a museum, but as the collection is rather varied, that would be difficult."

Q6: Do you have any plans to travel post-corona? Where? 

"No hesitation there: I love Oman. We have been going there since 2000. Back then, the only tarmac was from the airport to the hotel and when you traveled from Muscat to Sur, the drive took about 1 day for the 160 km. The hotel you departed from providing you with food and water for 3 days in case you got stuck from a sudden rainfall. You had to drive over the beach and unpaved ‘roads’. Once you arrived, you were obliged to call the previous hotel to tell them you had arrived ok. Now a lot has changed, but the desert nature remains beautiful and people-friendly."


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