Background information about the Atlas of Mutual Heritage
The Atlas of Mutual Heritage (AMH) is an expanding digital academic catalogue of illustrations and data about settlements of the Dutch East & West Indian Company (VOC and WIC). The Atlas of Mutual Heritage is the result of an intensive co-operation between the Nationaal Archief, RACM (Rijksdienst voor de Monumentenzorg) and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Just recently, in the second phase of the project, also the Koninklijke Bibliotheek became partner. The project was initiated by Martine Gosselink. She is also responsible for the academic research and project organisation.
The first phase of the AMH project (1996-2003) involved the development of a database of information on the Dutch East Indian Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC). In 2003 a start is made to compile the settlements of the Dutch West India Company (West Indische Compagnie, WIC). These settlements are added in 2004. In its current form the AMH comprises two inventories painstakingly compiled on the basis of extensive research. The first is an overview of locations (forts and outposts) by the VOC & WIC in the 17th and 18th centuries. The second lists the topographical images of these locations that are contained in several collections.
The Atlas of Mutual Heritage offers the key to a wealth of visual material held in the collections of these institutions. In registering this material in a digital catalogue the project participants aim to realise two goals. Firstly the system is functioning as a key aid and basis for further research. Thanks to its many search options the system not only functions as an aid to research on VOC/WIC-related topics but also as an aid to interdisciplinary scholarship for example in socio-cultural history, history of architecture, restoration of overseas monuments, colonial history and art history. Until now the strict separation maintained between written and textual sources on the one hand and visual material on the other has proved a stumbling block to accessing the full range of information pertaining to our mutual heritage. The project participants believe that AMH bridges the gap between the various disciplines and stimulate research into a combination of visual and textual material.
In the second place the participating institutions aim to improve the quality of information provision to the client. In view of the fact that our mutual heritage is one of the most popular subjects of historical research, the Atlas of Mutual Heritage represents a major and welcome improvement in information provision. Using the AMH, staff at reference libraries and photographic archives are be able to respond to customer queries quickly and efficiently.
At this moment the AMH-site is visited by 17,000 people a month; they can be scientists, students, filmmakers and tourists. Users from all over the world, from Australia and India, US and the West-Indies, consult the database.
The Atlas of Mutual Heritage is and will remain an open system. It is intended that other institutions both at home and abroad (museums, libraries, archives and academic institutions) will in future add to the system with visual material held in their collections.
As previously indicated, the AMH is an expanding database. This means that each subsequent version will be updated with fresh data and supplementary material from other collections. As such the compilers of AMH would greatly welcome your comments and/or criticism. To this end you are kindly requested to contact the AMH project head, Johanneke Braam: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0031-6 145 06 404..