July 10, 2018

Australia: Dirk Hartog Plate’s grand tour of Down Under

The Dirk Hartog Plate, the oldest European object ever found on Australian soil, has travelled to Australia and is now safely back in its resting place.

Tamar Davidowitz at work at the Australian Synchrotron (Photo: David Thurrowgood).

Preservation of the plate
In 2017, after the Dirk Hartog Year in 2016, the Plate was on display in the cities of Sydney, Launceston and Melbourne, and has now safely returned to Amsterdam. During the tour, the Rijksmuseum’s metal conservator, Tamar Davidowitz, personally delivered the delicate plate to each location. When the plate reached Melbourne, it was thoroughly scanned at the Australian Synchrotron. According to Davidowitz, new metal analysing technology there makes it possible to do a very high resolution scan of the elemental distribution of the plate’s surface. This helps explain why some parts of it have broken. It also gives a better understanding of how the plate is changing, and helps conservators decide on the best way of preserving it. 

Dirk Hartog Year 
The Rijksmuseum had initially brought out the plate in October 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of Dirk Hartog’s landing off Australia’s west coast in Shark Bay. Hartog and his crew of the Eendracht became the first documented Europeans to set foot in Western Australia on 25 October 1616. The inscribed pewter plate they left on what is now known as Dirk Hartog Island is the oldest European object ever found in Australia. Take a look at the Boemerang magazine that’s been made in honour of this shared historical year.