DISCOVER Magazine #7

Maritime heritage

Published in category: Heritage & Culture

With more than 8000 employees, 32 ship- and repair yards and projects in more than 145 countries, Damen is proud to call itself an international company that has retained the values of a small family business. Engagement and respect – for society, culture and maritime history – remain our priorities, as evidenced by our support for a broad range of causes, from local initiatives in and around our shipyards in Gorinchem and elsewhere to major cultural organisations such as Nederlands Dans Theater and the international Dance4Life foundation.

Damen’s own long history in shipbuilding gives it a special appreciation for our maritime heritage and the need to preserve it. Family member Dina Damen, sister of Kommer Damen, and intimately involved in the company, says: “We need to preserve our shipbuilding industry. Not only does it generate jobs, income and innovations, it is also an integral part of the Dutch people and of our country’s history. Our maritime heritage is worth being cared for and should be kept alive.”

Dina continues: “What happens today is history tomorrow. What parts of history are valuable enough to preserve? It is important for museums to answer that question. Here at Damen, our dedicated team, Josien [Kommer Damen’s spouse] and I try to do our part; we maintain a large historical archive and organise in-house exhibitions at several shipyards. By maintaining our own historic collection we explicitly support the intrinsic value of our industrial heritage and the role of Damen Shipyards within that heritage.”


Other family members subscribe to this, stating that it is a good way of showing the company’s strong maritime roots and knowledge to younger generations and visitors from abroad, firing their enthusiasm. “We try to share the information that is contained within our collection with others, both internally and externally, by organising exhibitions on changing themes,” Dina says. “They are characteristic of our innovative, scientific approach to shipbuilding and the earning capacity that guarantees our continued existence. However, it is up to the maritime museums to cover the whole of our national seafaring culture. Our family thinks it’s very important to support those institutions. In the long run, the museums support both education and business – it is always a pleasure to invite clients to exhibitions. It proves that the modern-day vessels built by all Dutch shipbuilders, not only us, are the result of a long line of innovations needed to live with that magnificent and yet dangerous sea that can swallow our country if not controlled.”

From large museums such as the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam to small foundations such as the one supporting the seagoing tugboat de Holland, Damen supports the following six causes:

National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum) is housed in a listed building in the heart of Amsterdam. The museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of nautical art and artefacts, including paintings, navigation instruments and ship models. Interactive exhibits allow visitors to explore 500 years of maritime history. Thanks to Damen’s generous support, the museum is able to pass on Dutch maritime heritage to future generations. “To update the museum’s impressive collection of ship models, Damen Shipyards also donated a beautiful model of the Esnaad 712, an Axe-Bow,” says Elisabeth Spits, curator of Ships and Technique. “A great example of the development of shipbuilding.”


National Dredging Museum

From the Zuiderzee Works to Dubai and Palm Island, the Netherlands’ National Dredging Museum (Nationaal Baggermuseum) offers visitors a broad overview of the business of dredging. Ship models, old prints, photographs and a striking collection of dredged objects have been brought together in a listed building in Sliedrecht, the birthplace of the industry.

In 2010, the dredging museum showcased one of the temporary exhibitions that Damen organises in the entrance hall to the company’s head office in Gorinchem: Trekken en Duwen [Pulling and Pushing], curated by Dina and Josien – about Damen’s role in the dredging sector.

The Hudson Museum Ship

The Hudson was launched almost 75 years ago. Commissioned by L. Smit & Co’s International Towing Service and the only prewar seagoing tug in the Netherlands, it is unique in its class. Twice saved from demolition, the Hudson has been a museum ship since 2003. It lies anchored in Maassluis and serves to preserve some of the wonderful history of Dutch ocean towing. A visit to the former engine room and bunkers takes you back to a time when captain and crew still inhabited the ship. “Damen made a major contribution to preserving the tug, for example by financing major upkeep in 2012,” says Eric Spanjer, member of the board for the Save the Hudson Foundation. “That will keep us ship-shape for the next few years.”


Water, Work, Glory and Adventure – the story of the sea is at the heart of Maritime MuZEEum in Vlissingen (in Zeeland, a southern province of Holland bordering on the North Sea). Maritime stories from the past and present are grouped into these four themes and reveal the past and present of Zeeland, but also of Damen. The exhibition “Buoyant Power – superyachts built by Amels in Flushing” (2011-2012) was the start of a partnership that has already produced many wonderful things. Damen also features in the museum’s permanent collection. Ship models, films and interactive displays take visitors on a journey through the history of shipbuilding, with Damen at the helm. “What’s the first thing visitors see when they enter the museum? A large-scale ship model by Amels. That really fires their imaginations,” says Daniëlle Otten, manager at MuZEEum Vlissingen.


The Holland Seagoing Tugboat Foundation

The Holland, a seagoing tugboat built in 1951, carried out about two hundred spectacular rescue missions. The ship was originally a salvage vessel, but was also used to ferry passengers to the Dutch island of Terschelling and as a research ship – until its demolition was announced in 1998. Fans joined forces and set up a foundation, the Holland Seagoing Tugboat Foundation, to preserve this authentic ship. The Holland’s charming Art Deco salon was restored to its former glory and the tugboat was transformed into a museum ship, with Harlingen as its home port. “Much of the restoration work was financed by Damen, and we have been partners for more than ten years now,” says Tom Schoonhoff, manager at the Holland Seagoing Tugboat Foundation.

Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery

It may not be maritime, but we feel it’s worth mentioning anyway: the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, located in The Hague. After a major renovation, the museum will be reopening shortly, on 27 June 2014. The Mauritshuis occupies a unique position in the international museum world. It has a small and cohesive collection, featuring Dutch and Flemish paintings from the Golden Age – for example Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson and Vermeer´s Girl with a Pearl Earring. The collection is housed in a 17th-century building, whose extraordinary architecture and location add greatly to the visitor’s experience. In order to secure this prestigious position for the future, the Mauritshuis is being expanded with a new and spacious exhibition space and a welcoming underground entrance foyer. As a member of Confrérie Pictura, the international platform for businesses that feel an affinity with the museum’s mission, Damen is helping the Mauritshuis with this and other investments.


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