The new Prinsenhof Museum - an interactive experience

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Prinsenhof Museum, Delft

Maritime Museum Amsterdam

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In 2013, the abolition of slavery was commemorated on its 150th anniversary. As the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade could never have taken place without shipping, the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam organised a special exhibition focusing on this frequently underexposed period in Dutch history.

The exhibition, entitled 'The Dark Chapter' gave the visitors a glimpse into the Dutch slave trade via the dramatic story of the slave ship Leusden. For this purpose, MCW developed a wide range of interactive and audio-visual solutions.


On 19 November 1737, the Dutch slave ship Leusden set sail from Africa. On board was a group of 700 African prisoners - men, women and children - who were to be sold into slavery on the Suriname plantations. However, their fate would be even more tragic. On 1 January 1738, the ship was wrecked at the mouth of the Maroni River in Suriname. Fearing that the slaves would overrun him, Captain Outjes ordered that the doors to the slave decks be sealed. The prisoners didn't stand a chance.

The frigate Leusden was built in 1719, just a stone's throw away from where the National Maritime Museum is located today. Dr Leo Balai obtained a PhD specialising in the voyages of the Leusden and the powerful and moving exhibition 'The Dark Chapter' is based on his research.

The assignment

Develop powerful and compelling audio-visual elements and interactive exhibits in order to bring the story of the slave ship Leusden to life.

Our approach

MCW was brought into the development of 'The Dark Chapter' at a very early stage. We had already worked on the redesign of the National Maritime Museum in 2010, and we were very happy to supply our expertise in the development of the exhibition's AV and interactive elements. Based on the concept and the design created by famous decor designer Eric Goossens, we started work on a diverse range of multimedia presentations.

The results

Below deck
The unique interactive nature of the exhibition enabled visitors to truly experience the story. With the story of the Leusden as the main theme, we divided the exhibition into a number of decks. Below deck, MCW created an animation conveying a sense of oppression and combined it with the voices of slaves in the dark room. People could experience how the slaves must have felt in this floating hell, packed in side by side and often chained to each other.

Above deck
On the upper deck, it was light and airy. Here, you could step into the world of the crew and get to know the captain, Jochem Outjes. Amazing projections and interactive elements ensured a unique experience. MCW resurrected a wide range of characters, such as the anti-slavery liberal writer Betje Wolff and Willem Bosman from the Dutch West India Company.

Discussion Square
After Leo Balai, Captain Outjes and one of the slaves give visitors a few final words in the last room of the exhibition, visitors have an opportunity to talk things over in Discussion Square. Has slavery truly been abolished, or does it continue to this day in certain areas of the world? Is modern-day racism a consequence of slavery? In Discussion Square, visitors are invited to interactively reflect upon and debate these issues.

A moving exhibition
'The Dark Chapter' ran from May 2013 until August 2014. It was an exceptionally moving exhibition that evoked highly emotional responses from many visitors. MCW is proud to have been able to help recount such an important chapter in Dutch history.