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21-04-2020

Experience the scope of Dutch East India Company data sets in augmented reality

The Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (Huygens ING) and Studio Louter will develop an augmented reality (AR) data experience about the history of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). This installation encourages visitors to find answers to pressing and complex heritage questions about our VOC past in online sources.

In the coming months, Huygens ING and Studio Louter will build the experience ‘Zij voeren mee met de VOC’. It will provide easy and engaging access to three existing online data sets about the VOC. This is possible thanks to a recently awarded subsidy of almost €125,000 from the Creative Industries Fund NL under the Digital Heritage x Public scheme.

Wealth of data provides answers to complex heritage questions

The history of the VOC is always in the spotlight. After being celebrated for years, the company is viewed very differently today. Sources are being reinterpreted. Many of these sources have been digitized and made available online by Huygens ING and other Dutch heritage and research institutions in recent years. Scholars already make extensive use of this wealth of information. The general public, however, has not yet experienced stories hidden in the sources and the insights they offer on debates about the VOC heritage.

The installation ‘Zij voeren mee met de VOC’ will unlock the digitized sources for a broad audience in a stimulating way. It will enable visitors to literally ask questions to the crew members of the VOC on an iPad: Where did you come from? What was your chance of survival? Did you participate in the slave trade? To find answers to these questions, visitors are taken on a journey through data from VOC-opvarenden, Dutch-Asiatic Shipping and Boekhouder-Generaal Batavia. Users experience this journey in AR. Guides assist them along the way—experts, representing diverse positions in the debate on VOC heritage, who provide context and assist visitors in interpreting the data. Visitors are then encouraged to find answers to their own questions. They will thus be challenged to reflect on one of the most acclaimed, notorious and identity-forming chapters in the history of the Netherlands.

Visitor experience in Het Scheepvaartmuseum

After a launch at the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, the installation ‘Zij voeren mee met de VOC’ will travel to various museums and other institutions, including the University of Amsterdam. The online datasets about the VOC have been interlinked within the context of the Dutch Maritime Sources Network.

Jelle van Lottum, head of the Huygens ING History department, Lodewijk Petram, senior research data manager in the Digital Data Management department, and Sebastiaan Derks, head of the Digital Data Management department are involved in the project.

Experts include Karwan Fatah-Black (Leiden University), Dyonna Benett (heritage professional), Sri Margana (Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, Indonesia), Suze Zijlstra (Leiden University) and Henk den Heijer (Professor Emeritus Maritime History, Leiden University).

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