Over the years, a lot has been said and written about the replica of the East Indiaman Amsterdam. Continue reading to learn more about the past of this ship, how and why it was built, and about the museum's plans to update the stories and experience on this ship. And of course, share your opinion.
The construction of the Amsterdam began in 1985. It was an employment project for young people at a time of high unemployment. The East Indiaman Amsterdam Foundation financed the project together with the municipality, two ministries and sponsors. The Foundation also sold 'shares'. The ship was to become a tourist attraction: something 'typically Dutch' that appealed to domestic and foreign visitors. In 1989, the Amsterdam was sold to The National Maritime Museum. The following year, the ship took part in the parade of tall ships during SAIL Amsterdam.
A ship as a symbol
When the replica was built in the 1980s, the ship mainly represented positive aspects of the East India Company history, such as Dutch entrepreneurship and ingenuity.
Even back then, there was also criticism. In 1991, the 'East Indiaman Solution Committee', founded specifically in response to this ship, called the ship a "floating provocation" and a "glorification of robbery, oppression and slave trade". The Committee proposed sinking the ship. Neither the municipality nor the museum were that critical in the 1990s. For a long time, the museum told no stories on the ship about violence or slavery committed by the East India Company.
Through research, knowledge about structural violence among the East India Company has grown. The National Maritime Museum now also highlights this side of the East India Company - and the inequality that colonial trade caused - in the ship's narrative.
Together towards a new narrative
The information texts currently displayed on the ship are temporary. In 2023 and 2024, the ship will be installed with new narratives.
In doing so, The National Maritime Museum invites (online) visitors to share their thoughts. The museum also maintains conversations with experts with knowledge of colonial and maritime history and its impact on the present. We also gather input from people who have not (yet) visited the ship. The results of this project will form the basis for discussions about further innovations on the ship.
Indeed, in the coming years visitors will increasingly find new stories on the ship, including a new audio tour, an update of the VR-experience Dare to Discover and several new interactive elements on board. The museum will also invite contemporary artists more often for interventions that call for more reflection, such as the presentation Decoding the Atlantic World, during which new signal flags were designed for the ship (which are still on view).
In this way, we will arrive at a new, shared narrative about the Amsterdam and the significance of this ship today.