A silver plate recovered from the Batavia shipwreck (photo: University of Western Australia).

Australia: Visualising unique 17th century Batavia silverware

The Western Australian Museum and the University of Western Australia will make 3D scans to visualise and analyse the objects.
2 September 2019

The Western Australian Museum holds a unique collection of 17th century Amsterdam silverware that was found in the shipwreck of the Dutch East India Company's (VOC) flagship ‘Batavia’. Together with several international partners and the University of Western Australia, the Western Australian Museum will make 3D scans to visualise and analyse the silver objects.

New method – new insights

The silverware was recovered from the Dutch East Indiaman ‘Batavia’ that was shipwrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos in June 1629. Headed to the former Dutch East Indies, the Batavia’s shipment consisted of luxurious silver ewers, water basins, dishes, bowls and bedposts.

Robert Erdmann, Professor at the University of Amsterdam and Senior Scientist at the Rijksmuseum, has recently developed a new method for optical scanning. The method allows for the rendering of highly reflective 3D objects, enabling the visualisation of fine surface details. As the silver objects have corroded under very different conditions, their surfaces may contain information no longer found on other contemporary silver objects.

Worldwide digital access

A digital tour through the new Western Australian Museum opening in 2020 will exhibit the 3D visualisations of the 17th century VOC silverware and the research outcomes. Not only technical results will be shown. A dedicated website – newly designed, open access and interactive – will feature the results of archival, historical, and art historical research. Dutch archival sources relevant to the project will be digitised, transcribed, translated and published online.

The University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Museum will partner up with the University of Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and the Dutch National Archives.

This project is supported by the Netherlands Embassy in Canberra, Australia.