National Archives of the Netherlands (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science)

India revisited: VOC Archives and Indian Dutch Heritage Symposium

From 9 to 16 April Ms. Jinna Smit and Mr. Roelof Hol of the Dutch Mutual Cultural Heritage Program (MCH), Nationaal Archief, went on a working trip to India. Main purposes of the visit were the assessment of Dutch East India Company (VOC) records, discussing the  exchange of digitized MCH archives, and attending the Indian Dutch Heritage symposium.

Digitization and exchange

The first day the delegation met with Mr. Reijkumar, Director of the Kerala State Archives in Thiruvananthapuram, to discuss possibilities for the exchange of digitized VOC records. Although Mr. Rejikumar welcomed the idea, he first will have to discuss the proposed ‘digital exchange’ with the Department of Cultural Affairs. Therefore, as follow up of this meeting, the details of the exchange have been communicated to the Principal Secretary of Cultural Affairs.

Valuable VOC records

In order to establish that the VOC documents in Kerala are unique and legible - both requirements for digitization - Ms. Smit and Mr. Hol travelled to the Regional Archives Ernakulam in Kochi where these records are kept. They examined numerous records, including beautifully decorated letters from the Governor-General at Batavia to the kings of Cochin, deeds and declarations. These mostly unique documents date from 1693 to 1815 and are, in spite of the tropical climate, still legible.

Indian Dutch Heritage symposium

The Indian Dutch Heritage symposium on 12 April was organized by the Centre for International Heritage Activities (CIE), Leiden University and the Nationaal Archief. It centered around shared cultural heritage and community engagement, underwater archeology and the history of Kochi. Indian and Dutch experts exchanged views, experiences and knowledge. On behalf of the Nationaal Archief, Ms. Smit and Mr. Lennart Bes gave presentations on Dutch records in India and on VOC archives relating to India (see attachments).

Accessibility VOC grants of land

Before returning home, Ms. Smit and Mr. Hol visited the Goethals Library in Kolkata were they found records on disputes between the VOC and the English East India Company. The delegation also went to the Bengal State Archives to talk about public accessibility of the Dutch pattas. These VOC grants for plots of lands to individuals mostly date from the late 18th and early 19th century. After assessing these documents, the MCH team concluded that an accessible database holding all data is more useful to the public than digital copies of the records. The Nationaal Archief will send a proposal to the Bengal State Archives on the database and the research required.


To keep up to date on the cooperation between the Kerala State Archives and the Nationaal Archief and the West Bengal State Archives and the Nationaal Archief please register for the MCH Newsletter.

A full report on both days of the Indian Dutch Symposium will be published on the website of the CIE.