New version Atlas of Mutual Heritage launched

The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the National Library, the National Archives and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands have launched a new version of the online database Atlas of Mutual Heritage. This growing database has been completely renewed. It consists of images and background information on the world in which the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and Dutch West India Company (WIC) operated. For the first time, information and images about expeditions and other illustrated travels have been included.

Expeditions, missions and other illustrated travels

In the past, images were stored in this database within the categories place, region, and country. However, this meant that images of all expeditions, missions and other travels that took place, were being left unseen. The illustrated journals of these travels are of invaluable worth. The earliest images of Māori can be found in the travel journal of Abel Tasman. Some of the most valuable descriptions and images of the original inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego and South Patagonia can be found in the travel descriptions of early Dutch expeditions, such as those made by Mahu, de Cordes and Van Spilbergen. The only trustworthy drawings of living dodo’s are to be found in the travel log of the ship Gelderland. Descriptions and images of these travels all concern valuable shared heritage that is of a wider relevance than only the Dutch colonial past. The new webpage offers technical possibilities to share this material with a worldwide audience.

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Een opengeslagen boek met zwart-wit tekeningen van een dodo
Image: ©Nationaal Archief
Drawings of dodo’s by Joris Joosten Laerle, on board of the ship Gelderland, 1601. Collection National Archives

Oldest heritage database of the Netherlands

The Atlas of Mutual Heritage has been around since 1996, and is therefore the oldest heritage database of the Netherlands. In the past decades, the Atlas developed from a console in the Rijksmuseum, to a CD-ROM, to an ever growing online database.

The database contains specific images of the world in which the VOC and WIC operated, and offers information to everyone who is interested in that world – students, heritage professionals, academics and others. The database and accompanying website not only reach a Dutch and international academic public, but is also specifically meant for inhabitants of the locations with which the Netherlands shares a past.

Today, the database offers over 8.500 images derived from 28 archives, libraries and museums worldwide. Furthermore, the database contains 1.500 descriptions of places and expeditions. A unique aspect of the Atlas is that it shares material that would not – or not as complete – have been published at all. The database is of another nature than other digitalizing projects, which usually harvest a lot of data and combine and publish that data on a large scale. On the contrary, all items of the Atlas of Mutual Heritage are described by the team members themselves. This creates the opportunity to share many of the items with academics and others all over the world for the first time.

See the webpage of the atlat (in Dutch) or visit the Atlas of Mutual Heritage directly.