An international collaboration using sophisticated 3D imaging and new technology will detect and recreate intricate data from corroded 17th century European silverware, giving further insight into cultural exchange between Europe, Asia, and Australia some three centuries ago.
Western Australian and Dutch historians, archaeologists and curators, led by The University of Western Australia, will use 3D scanning technology to further investigate a unique collection of 17th century silverware from Amsterdam discovered by the WA Museum from the wreck of the Dutch East India vessel, Batavia.
Shipwrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos Islands in 1629, the Batavia was carrying a shipment of relatively unknown silver objects which were later recovered during the 1970s. The wreck was excavated by a team of maritime archaeologists from the WA Museum, and the silverware and other artefacts are held in the Museum’s Collection.
Batavia’s commander Francisco Pelsaert had spent seven years as an official with the Dutch East India Company in India and advised the company to manufacture silver and gold into articles for common use at the time. The Batavia’s shipment included luxurious silver jugs, water basins, dishes, bowls and bedposts.
Project coordinator Arvi Wattel, from UWA’s School of Design, said corrosion and the highly reflective surface texture of the silverware had made it difficult to analyse the full extent of its cultural significance.
“This exciting project promises to advance the research of historical and technical aspects of the 17th century silver by scanning, visualising in 3D and analysing the silverware carried on board the Batavia,” Mr Wattel said.
He said Professor Robert Erdmann, from the University of Amsterdam and senior scientist at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, had recently developed a new method for optical scanning to render highly reflective 3D objects, enabling the visualisation of fine surface. The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national museum focused on Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.
In addition to scanning and imaging, researchers will be looking for new insights into the manufacture of the silverware as well as the condition and history of the objects.
After processing, the 3D scans will be shown on a newly designed interactive website where the results of the material technical examinations, archival, historical and art-historical research will be made available to a worldwide audience.
The three-year project has been funded by a $24,574 grant from the Shared Cultural Heritage program of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The project is a collaboration between UWA, the WA Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the University of Amsterdam.