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They sailed with the VOC

Did the Dutch East India Company (VOC) employ female sailors on its ships? And slaves? What was the chance that a sailor would return to the Netherlands? And could you become rich as a sailor or soldier on board? These and other questions are addressed in an augmented reality (AR) installation that the Huygens Institute is developing together with Studio Louter / Studio Bertels.

Several online resources of the Huygens Institute are related to the maritime history of the Netherlands. The institute also conducts research in this area, with a recent focus on the lives and careers of sailors. In the project ‘They sailed with the VOC’ some of the results from this research are presented in an AR installation. Visitors to the installation can pose a number of questions to the crew members of Dutch East Indiamen. To find the answers, they are taken on an AR journey through data from VOC-opvarenden, Dutch-Asiatic Shipping and Boekhouder-Generaal Batavia. Guides assist the visitors on their journey. Project team member Lodewijk Petram gives explanation on the data and talks with experts who provide context and offer new perspectives on the VOC. Experts include (among others) heritage specialist Dyonna Bennett and historians Wim Manuhutu and Suze Zijlstra.

Jelle van Lottum, head of the 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 this project. The installation will be launched in January 2021 at the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, after which it will travel to other museums and institutions. The project is funded by a subsidy of almost € 125,000 from the Creative Industries Fund NL within the Digital Heritage x Public scheme.