CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The Western Australian Museum Plans to Visualize 17th-century Dutch Silverware in 3D

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. According to the museum plans to make 3D scans to visualize and analyse the objects. The project is a cooperation between the University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Museum, together with the University of Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and the Dutch National Archives.

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 visualization 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.

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

Worldwide digital access

A digital tour through the new Western Australian Museum opening in 2020 will exhibit the 3D visualizations 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 digitized, transcribed, translated and published online.