Hidden VOC stories visible with augmented reality

VOC Data Experience starts a journey through maritime museums in Het Scheepvaartmuseum

Amsterdam, 1 June – Huygens ING and Studio Bertels will launch the VOC Data Experience in Het Scheepvaartmuseum on 5 June. Spectacular data visualisations of impressive historical datasets help visitors form an opinion about the rich history of the VOC. Users can search for hidden stories themselves in digitized data collections or do so on the basis of tantalizing statements from six experts. The use of augmented reality makes data tangible for a large audience.
The history of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) has long been acclaimed but is now infamous. The VOC Data Experience is a new, contemporary way for Huygens ING to look at this history. The Experience also ties in seamlessly with Het Scheepvaartmuseum’s ambitions to collect and display different perspectives on the history of the VOC and the VOC ship Amsterdam.

Different perspectives on the VOC

Jelle van Lottum, head of the History Department at Huygens ING and Professor of the History of Labor Migration at Radboud University: ‘We think it is important that everyone can form an opinion about the turbulent history of the VOC. The historical sources are accessible to everyone. And we hope, by means of this augmented reality Experience, not only to familiarize the public with that large amount of information, but also to show how you can interpret those sources yourself. ‘
Dirk Bertels, designer and developer of the VOC Data Experience: ‘We wanted to give the Experience a polyphonic character. The Experience ensures that the data touches people and stimulates discussion about the often abrasive history of the VOC. This is a great example of the rich experiences for the public when science and the creative industry come together.’
Eefje Valkema, head of Program & Public of Het Scheepvaartmuseum: ‘The return of the VOC ship Amsterdam on April 16 was the starting shot for Het Scheepvaartmuseum to collect current questions from the public and partners that arise around the VOC history, such as: are there any enslaved people on board the Amsterdam? Are there any stories about migrants on board? Or: is there information about the construction of this replica? These questions form a new starting point for the presentation of new stories on board the ship. The VOC Data Experience is a wonderful elaboration of this.’

Explanation from specialists and experts

Studio Bertels’ augmented reality data visualisations immerse the visitor in an overwhelming amount of data available about the VOC past. It concerns data on the ship’s crews and the cargoes they transported around the world – from spices to enslaved.
Heritage specialist Dyonna Bennett and historians Jelle van Lottum, Suze Zijlstra, Wim Manuhutu, Lodewijk Petram and Matthias van Rossum explain the data or approach it from a surprising perspective. In doing so, they do not shy away from critical questions, such as about the slavery past. In addition, they have all nominated a historical figure who in their opinion deserves a statue.

Traveling Experience

The Experience can be experienced in Het Scheepvaartmuseum from 5 June. For a visit to Het Scheepvaartmuseum, booking an online ticket with start time and wearing a face mask is mandatory. The tablet for the Experience can be obtained from the specially designed piece of furniture on the Open Square of the museum. The Experience will then travel on to other maritime museums in the Netherlands, such as the Maritime Museum Rotterdam. The Experience was developed by Huygens ING in collaboration with Studio Bertels. The project was made possible in part by a subsidy from the Creative Industries Fund.