The interactive exhibition ‘Life on Board’ was set up as an exciting, life-sized board game for young and old. The game takes you along past several islands, with a different type of ship on view each time. In a playful way you will learn everything about the different ranks on board, how crew members on the ship are called, how clean it is, about food and drink and scurvy. By answering questions you will work your way up from seaman to captain. At the end of the course you can enter your score into the computer to see to what rank you have climbed. You will even receive a diploma at home.

What is there to see?

In the interactive exhibition you will learn everything about life on board of a VOC ship. Learn more about the different ranks of the seamen on board, what was eaten and drunk and what exactly is scurvy?

For whom is this exhibition?

The exhibition is suited for families with children from 3 years of age. The questions of the game are of various levels, so the exhibition is attractive to all ages.

Toddlers up to 6 years of age
A separate part of ‘Life on board’ is especially for toddlers up to 6 years of age. The small ones can sit down on the stand and enjoy a film about animals on board by Bob van der Zee (Fred Delfgaauw) and Rinus de Rat. Together, they go and look for a ship on which Bob van der Zee worked as a caretaker.

The exhibition is made possible by Zabawas.

How long will the exhibition be on view?

Life on board is one of the permanent exhibitions and can be visited all year round.

Where in the museum is the exhibition?

You can visit the exhibition in the Western wing of the National Maritime Museum.

Learn and experience more about the life at sea in the exhibition 'Life on Board'

Life on board of a VOC ship

A long voyage filled with adventure, discovering new countries and cultures and the wind blowing through your hair… That sounds great! Still, life on board a VOC ship was no picnic. Heavy storms, lootings and diseases were regular obstacles. You had to work hard on board and everyone had their own rank with accompanying tasks on the ship.

Life behind and in front of the mast

The ship was fully manned during the trip. The crew consisted of the captain, steersmen, merchants, ship’s cooks, seamen and soldiers. Depending on your rank you knew your place on the ship. There was a big difference between life in front of and behind the mast.

The rank of a captain

Life behind the mast was for the captain and his non-commissioned officers. The hold behind the mast was the living environment for the crew with high ranks. Here, they enjoyed some luxury. Everyone had their own small, comfortable cabin, there was plenty of good food and even some amusement such as theatre or music. The captain had the highest rank on board. He was supported by the first mate who was responsible for the navigation of the ship.

What does a seaman do?

At the very bottom of the ranking were the seamen and soldiers. They lived in the part in front of the mast. There was no luxury in this section. The seamen slept in hammocks or on bags of straw on the floor. The food they were given was of poor quality and contained few vitamins. As a result, malnutrition and diseases were very common. Seamen did all kinds of chores on board. They scrubbed the decks, repaired the ship, operated the sails and had to protect the ship in case of lootings. No, a seaman’s life was no party.

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