For his long-term study of and commitment to the history of the pipe and the culture of pipe smoking, Don Duco has been granted the prestigious European Heritage Award, or Europa Nostra Award. This is the highest honour in Europe for projects and individuals committed to heritage. Don Duco deserves this recognition for the fifty years that he has worked on the collection of the Amsterdam Pipe Museum and for all the knowledge that he makes public through the online collection database at Pipemuseum.nl.
Europa Nostra, organizer of the awards on behalf of the European Commission, was initially triggered by the new website Pipeportal.eu, which brings together several museums with pipe and tobacco collections in Europe. As a visitor, you get an overview of the pipes or tobacco boxes in all these museums together through a single database. When it turned out that this portal is the initiative of Don Duco and is only a fragment of the work he has done for the website of the Amsterdam Pipe Museum, they looked further. An independent jury has selected 20 winners from dozens of nominations this year, of which Don Duco receives the only award for dedicated service.
Indeed, Don Duco has dedicated his life to securing a neglected theme: the global heritage of the tobacco pipe and the culture of smoking. Nobody asked him, nobody paid him for it. As a collector, later as curator of the museum he founded, he brought together tobacco pipes and other smoking utensils from all over the world and from all periods. He has now housed the world’s most varied collection in that field in the Amsterdam Pipe Museum. Duco has distributed the results of his studies in more than two hundred scientific publications and ten books. The online database of the museum contains accurate determinations of more than 30,000 objects with more than 150,000 photos. All this freely accessible to visitors from all parts of the world.
For many, the pipe will only evoke the association of the smell of Grandpa’s house, the youngest generation no longer knows pipe smoking at all. Yet for four hundred years, the pipe has been a personal attribute for men and women that radiated personal taste, status and fashion. All over Europe, different shapes have been popular depending on material use and local techniques. Sometimes even made with amazing artistry, hand carved from wood or meerschaum, painted porcelain, embossed or polished silver. Outside Europe, the variation is really inexhaustible, often dictated by lifestyle, traditions and demands of the climate. For example, the hookah or shisha is typical for warm regions, nomads have small pipes, tribes in Africa make pipes as sculptures of 30 centimetres high. In short, the pipe is a worthy part of the material world culture. All this is shown in the museum on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.
“Don Duco has devoted fifty years of his life to smoking and tobacco research and has successfully brought a public source of information to researchers around the world by digitizing his collection and publishing his research results. He is considered to be the expert in his field. He has convincingly positioned the pipe as a mirror of society, a reflection of cultural, social, economic and technological developments in the history of humanity”, said the jury.
Don Duco himself responds: “I am overwhelmed by this prize from an unexpected source. Indeed, I have worked on this project for years with passion, but always stimulated by the new knowledge I am gaining: pipes that I did not yet know, new archive finds, unexpected connections between cultures. I therefore see the award as an acknowledgment of the cultural importance of the pipe”.